School district budget for 2005-06 released

By Mary L. Grady

The expenditures for the 2004-05 school term were within budget, leaving an ending balance of $1.9 million according to Mercer Island School District associate superintendent for business services Michael Ziara.

Ziara presented the preliminary budget for 2005-06 to the School Board on June 23.

Total expenditures for the upcoming school term for the district are expected to be $34,376,000, about four percent greater than this past term. Despite the increase in budget dollars, district financial planners still predict that enrollment will remain flat at just under 4,000 students.

Ziara projects that the number of full-time equivalent students in the school district will be down 33 students from the official count of 3,993 this past school year. As a rule, the district also keeps four to five percent of the total budget, or about $1.5 million, each year in reserve. Some of the cost of the expanded Bridges program and the salary of the new associate superintendent for instruction will come out of the reserve fund for 2005-06.

District planners had expected 57 more students last September but only an additional 25 enrolled. District financial planners have an average error rate of just over 1 percent when predicting enrollment over the past five years.

It is essential that the financial forecast does not over estimate the number of students coming to the district, financial planners emphasize. The forecast number of students drives the number of teachers who need to be hired each year. Teachers are hired before the year begins and hold contracts with the district. The district is only paid according to how many students attend school.

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