(Posted May 16, 2018)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
A trio of critical factors helped to bring the Jefferson Local school district $1 million out of deficit spending this year.
At the May 14 school board meeting, Supt. William Mullett said the school system was $1.1 million in deficit spending last year but whittled that figure down this year to $137,000.
“That’s a huge difference,” Mullett pointed out. “We chopped that deficit by $1 million.”
He attributed the higher deficit numbers in 2017 to a considerable drop in income tax and local collections and a one-time settlement reached with Jefferson Industries Corp. in a court case addressing a reduction in property valuation.
Mullett credited three issues in bringing down the numbers.
“Our collections were up in both property and income tax—which are both local collections, nothing from the state,” he said. “We also took two premium holidays with our health insurance.”
According to Mullett, the district is self-insured through a health care consortium. If claims are low, the district has the opportunity to take advantage of the situation by skipping a premium, which happened twice last year.
Employees also benefit by skipping their own cost share payment for the month while remaining fully covered.
“The consortium gave us permission to not pay two premiums, which saved the district $300,000,” Mullett continued. “What also helped our situation was good management and some belt tightening.
“The deficit reduction means stability. Every year we have stability, it’s a good thing. While we’re asking for a renewal of the income tax this year, we try to push things out as far as possible before asking for any new money.”
Mullett is hopeful voters will renew the income tax, which is only assessed on earned income. He said collection on earned income only means the tax does not impact senior citizens on Social Security or pensions.
In other action, board members approved a five-cent increase in student lunch prices for the 2018-19 school year.