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Budgeting scare prompts Smackover-Norphlet School Board amendment

Posted on October 25, 2017

By Brittany Williams
Staff Writer

SMACKOVER — Because of a discrepancy in the district’s budget, the Smackover-Norphlet School Board approved a revised one at its meeting Monday night.

The revised budget wasn’t discussed in much detail, but states that a $13.2 million decrease in 2016 property assessments caused a $252,785 loss in revenue for the current school year, rather than the amount reported last month by district Business Manager Lori Willis.

According to information provided by the district, local revenue streams include local taxes, preschool tuition, interest on bank accounts and Certificates of Deposit; building rental, E-Rate, miscellaneous small grants, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission; and money collected from breakfast and lunch.

In a presentation last month, Willis said the previously approved budget “was not a happy budget.”

“Because of oil production being down, our property assessments in our district have dropped over $13 million from one year to the next, which is roughly causing us $1.5 million in lost revenue through tax money,” she said. “We got hit hard.”

“Robin (Travis, district book keeper) called up there and that’s when they told us that it’s primarily from the minerals and everybody knows that’s down. We didn’t expect such a hit. Compared to the other schools, the Lord can tell you,” said Superintendent Dave Wilcox.

Willis said other county schools, with the exception of the El Dorado School District, lost tax revenue due to a decrease in assessments as well.

When board President Joe Bates asked what the El Dorado district did, Willis said “They gained what we lost.”

Several members of the Smackover-Norphlet School Board were concerned that the reported decrease was a result of redistricting.

Board member Chris Long said he would like to look into why a section that once was in the Norphlet district is “all of a sudden in the El Dorado district,” citing Damon Goodwin and Wendy Walker as the sources of his information.

Bates formed a committee with Wilcox, Goodwin and Cliff Preston to review maps and explore options regarding taxes received at the county courthouse, according to minutes from the September meeting.

“I know I graduated in 1990 and I know that was where we went all the way to the El Dorado Chemical borderline and you don’t now,” Goodwin said.

Wilcox said he and Willis, “along with other folks,” were going to work on the budget to see where the budget approved last month could be cut. The new budget accounts for a proposed ending balance decrease of $16,924.91 rather than the $1.5 million approved before.

The district previously budgeted use of salary and operating funds to award $1,000 bonuses to some of its employees, but the bonuses are unaccounted for in the revised budget approved by the board.

A lighting project at Buckaroo Stadium and budgeted purchases of a new bus and workshop vehicle totaling to $370,000 were also removed from the new budget.

The Smackover-Norphlet School Board’s next meeting is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27 in the district central office board room.

Staff writer Haley Smith contributed to this article.

Brittany Williams may be reached at 870-862-6611 or bwilliams@ . Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook @BWilliamsEDNT for updates on Union County school news.