DOLGEVILLE — The new administrative head of the Dolgeville Central School District presented her plans for the district four months after taking office, including how she plans to approach looming financial issues.
District Superintendent Lynn Rhone, who started in the position in July, led an informational meeting in the school district’s auditorium Wednesday, where she said approximately 50 people attended.
She said in an email Thursday she wanted to conduct the meeting to "formally introduce myself to the district community and share my findings of my entry plan work thus far."
One part of this entry plan includes the district’s finances. To address this, Rhone said she will review annual budgets, revenue sources, expenses and fund balance, and will develop a five-year plan for spending and saving.
Under finances, Rhone spoke about having a "different direction for the district," which includes to stop using fund balance to cover the district’s expenses, and to instead build the fund balance and reserves back up for future capital projects and capital purchases.
Rhone said the community had asked the school board in 2012 to spend down the fund balance to reduce taxes. "At that time, the community asked the BOE to use the fund balance to ensure lower taxes," she said in an email Thursday. "Even though high needs were evident from lack of spending in previous years the BOE made the decision to spend from the fund balance to cover the cost of needed upgrades, such as instructional equipment, supplies, technology, etc."
Rhone said the district currently has $2.8 million of fund balance, compared to the $6.1 million it had in 2012. "There is not a percentage of what a district should have in fund balance — the amount is really dependent on the long-term spending plan of each district," she said.
Rhone said the district has "just begun to build our spending plan" and said it would be difficult to give a date as to when the fund balance would be built up to a comfortable level.
"Because we still have a healthy fund balance of $2.8 million we are certainly not in dire straits," she said. "But it is time to look at our revenue stream (school tax and state foundation aid) and develop a plan to stop spending down the fund balance."
"It’s important for the district to have a healthy savings account to ensure that unexpected and or emergency situations can be covered without having to burden our community with extra taxes," said Rhone. "We are in the process of constructing a five-year spending plan which will be our roadmap to funding capital purchases and projects with as little borrowing as possible."
Rhone said this needs to be done while "ensuring that our instructional and co-curricular programming remain robust."
She said the fund balance can be built up through cost savings measures such as retirements and bargaining units working creatively together and with the administration.
Rhone said the other two parts of her entry plan involve the community — where there is "an immediate connection to the Dolgeville community by visiting, introducing herself and forming relationships with staff, students, parents, community businesses and organizations" — and facilities — where she becomes familiar with the facilities such as the mechanical rooms, past capital projects, infrastructure, building condition survey, athletic fields and noting space available for possible future growth.
Rhone said the session was recorded and is expected to be available on the school district website soon.