The 2012-2013 school year was the fourth consecutive year the School District of Clayton was deficit spending in its operating budget. Along with business, public education was one of the sectors hardest hit by the recession. Even the affluent school districts across Missouri experienced challenges. For the School District of Clayton, our supportive community and strong tax base delayed the arrival of these financial challenges. However, we were not able to avoid them.
Deficit spending in Clayton occurs largely due to steady increases in expenditures and a flat revenue stream. Each year of deficit spending erodes the District’s fund balance, the money needed to ensure cash flow for operations over the course of the year. School districts like Clayton, which are funded primarily by local property taxes, receive most of their tax revenue in December and January of each year. This is in stark contrast to school districts that receive a majority of their funding from the state in 12 equal, monthly payments. As a result, Clayton must keep enough of its budget – 18 percent – in reserve to ensure it will have adequate cash flow to fund operations without borrowing money throughout the course of the year. Absent any budget reductions, the District’s fund balance would have fallen below its 18 percent goal in the 2015-2016 school year, requiring short-term borrowing to fund District operations.During the 2011-2012 school year, the District began an intensive study of how it allocates its resources in order to ensure funds are designated in a manner that supports the District’s mission, vision and core values. During that school year, the District held operating expenditures flat with a 0.09 percent increase by making $935,000 in permanent reductions to its budget. The reductions included $500,000 from school, central office and summer school budgets and staffing reductions of 4.5 full time equivalent staff, which included more than $230,000 in staffing from the District’s central office.For the 2012-2013 school year, the Board of Education gave the superintendent the goal of continuing this work and making reductions in expenditures without compromising core educational values. Through the District's Long-Term Financial Planning initiative, a committee of staff and community members conducted a comprehensive review of the District’s resources during the fall of 2012. With input from this committee, District leadership and through meetings with each building principal, Superintendent Dr. Sharmon Wilkinson proposed $1.7 million in permanent budget reductions to the Board of Education on Jan. 9. The Board continued to discuss the recommendations on Jan. 23 and 30. At its Jan. 30 meeting, the Board approved $1.6 million in permanent budget reductions beginning with the 2013-2014 budget.