The Hermiston School Board of Education has accepted administrative recommendation to finalize its budget parameters, a set of five guidelines for administration to use when creating the 2012-13 budget.

The board approved the parameters during its regular meeting on Monday, and District Interim Superintendent Wade Smith said much of his recommendation is based on signs state funding for education will increase slightly in 2013-15 biennium.

“We still have a long ways to go, but this is the first time we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Smith said Monday.

The board decided:

• To drop the ending fund balance minimum from 9 percent to 8 percent. Similar to a savings account, the ending fund balance gives the district a cushion to pay bills over the summer and over emergencies. Every 1 percent is about $421,000.

• To use $400,000 from the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) Reserve fund to offset expected increases in PERS rates.

About $1 million will remain in the fund after the reduction.

• To expect the same amount of state funding as last year.

• To expect steady enrollment. In the past, the board has planned for an increase of 50 students each year, but with the recent enrollment drop, the board opted to plan for an equal number of students.

• To deficit spend $800,000. The deficit amount is directly related to the reduction of the ending fund balance.

“No. 5 is really a gauge to say when you tinker with 1-4, what does that mean at the end of the day,” Smith said.

Most of the parameters passed unanimously, however, Board Member Don Rankin opposed reducing the ending fund balance and, therefore, the amount of money deficit spent.

“I’d like to leave it at 9 percent. I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Rankin said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Other board members said they opted to reduce the amount because of state forecasts and because the parameters mean no jobs are cut and no programs reduced.

“If we adopt this the way we just discussed it, there’s no change in programs,” Ginny Holthus said. “That’s a positive.”

In other business:

• The Board approved the calendar for the 2012-13 school year. The board considered starting the school year before or after Labor Day, and unanimously chose the pre-Labor Day option. The first day of school will be Monday, Aug. 27, and the last day will be Wednesday, June 5. The calendar is available on the district website at www.hermiston.k12.or.us/calendar.

• The board approved an ordinance allowing Smith to sign documents related to the purchase of the Umatilla County Fairgrounds property. The board has authorized up to $3 million, as well as incidental fees, for the purchase.

• Board members approved Smith’s annual evaluation.

“We are extremely pleased with all your hard work,” Board Chairwoman Karen Sherman said. “We appreciate your ability to step up and keep the district running in Dr. (Fred) Maiocco’s absence.”

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