Aspen Board of Education gets midyear budget update | #Education

Buses line up at the Aspen School District Bus Barn on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

At quick glance, the Aspen School District’s budget appropriations look like a whopping total for annual spending in the triple-digit millions.

The 2021-22 fiscal year budget appropriates $180.5 million in spending after some mid-year adjustments, up from the nearly $169 million the Board of Education approved last year, according to a budget update presented Wednesday by the district’s Chief Financial Officer Linda Warhoe at the Board of Education meeting.

But Warhoe cautioned against looking at that number as a representation of annual spending in the schools because not all of that money will be spent in one year, she said.

The general operating fund is actually about $33.2 million at the midyear check-in, according to updated appropriations in a resolution approved at the meeting. A handful of funds for other programs and services account for several more millions, and a debt service fund accounts for about $17 million in spending.

Most of the rest of that $180.5 million total is in capital projects, which includes a building fund of nearly $110.5 million, up from an originally budgeted $102.5 million because some expenditures planned for the previous year ended up happening this year instead, Warhoe said.

A nearly $114 million bond is funding facilities work and employee housing over the next several years for the district.

The mid-year budget adjustment happens because school number-crunchers have to plan around a few “major unknowns” when they set the budget in June, Warhoe said. Those unknowns are the enrollment that determines state funding, assessed property values that determine property tax revenue and the ending fund balance from 2020-21, which determines how much the district has for a beginning fund balance in 2021-22.

The funded pupil count turned out to be 1,653 students at the mid-year check-in, about seven heads higher than initially budgeted, and the per-pupil funding is nearly $125 higher than projected, which combined bring in more state funding.

Assessed property values are up nearly 8.5% in 2022, totaling $3.5 billion compared to 2021’s total of $3.2 billion; without raising tax rates, that brings in more funds for the district to spend on debt service.

The beginning fund balance is less than initially budgeted, coming in at more than $5.1 million rather than just shy of $5.4 million.

Most of the adjustment there comes from a deficit in food service revenue; the district relies primarily on meal sales to fund that program, and last year’s pandemic learning roller coaster put a big dent in those revenues, Warhoe said. A rollover of special revenues into this fiscal year helped cover that deficit.

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