STERLING – The School Board on Wednesday unanimously voted to approve the school district's preliminary $38.7 million budget for the 2014-15 school year.
They also set a public hearing on the budget, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., Sept. 23, at the Sterling High School library.
The school district's budget will be on display for the next 30 days in the school district's office.
"These are just preliminary numbers," finance director Tim Schwingle told the board. "You will get the final budget numbers in September."
The largest chunk of the budget is the $29.5 million education fund, which makes up 76 percent of it.
For the first time in about 10 years, school officials are presenting a balanced proposed education fund. It pays for teacher salaries, books and supplies.
Getting a balanced education fund was not easy. Officials spent the past 3 years cutting $2.8 million from the education fund, which currently has a surplus of $850.
The plan was developed in 2012 to address a $1.8 million deficit in the education fund. The original plan was to cut $600,000 in each of the 3 years, but several factors threw that plan off course, Superintendent Tad Everett said.
Local equalized assessed valuation decreased in recent years, costing the district about $101,000. There was also a nearly $4 million loss in the employee benefit plan.
In addition, the school district has lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid because the state has prorated, or reduced, its payments to school districts.
The school district also had a self-funded insurance plan, which cost the district $4 million over the last 5 years.
"Our own insurance plan was weighing us down financially," Everett said.
To fix that, school officials, teachers and support staff recently agreed to move from a self-insured health and dental employment benefit plan to a fully funded plan.
The school district expects to receive $9.3 million in state aid.
The board will vote on the final budget in September. There could be some slight changes, mainly because there could be some additional staff hired in the coming weeks.
The next Sterling School Board meeting is at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Sterling High School library, 1608 Fourth Ave.
Go to www.sterlingpublicschools.org or call the school district's central office at 815-626-5050 for an agenda or more information.