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District sees significant financial improvement

By Lisa Brody

At the Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, September 20, it was revealed by interim assistant superintendent for business services Dr. Maria Gistinger that final amended adjustments to the fund balance for the 2021-2022 school year leave it $489,756 in the black.

In March, superintendent Dr. Embekka Roberson revealed to the board and school community that while working on budget amendments, it was determined that the district has a $14.3 million shortfall due to a variety of factors, including a former financial director miscalculating school enrollment figures for several years.

Gistinger noted, “As you know, we leveraged every tool we had – every fund, every grant – to increase the operating position of our general fund. This includes one time transfers from our federal projects, operating balance transfers, last minute grants we were receiving that I knew were considered as a candidate for I didn't include them in the amended budget because I wanted to make sure we were actually going to receive them, as well as just general overall tightening our belt and not spending our overall budget allocation.”

Gistinger said as of June 21, 2022, the district had a projected audited change in its fund balance, with non-cash adjustment of -$2.9 million. Now, with final accounting and an adjustment based on investments “we will continue to adjust based on the fair market value of our bonds, it made our fund balance appear to be in the red, at -$684,435. Without that adjustment, our fund balance would have been in the black.”

“In lay terms, we received additional one-time money over the summer,” Roberson said. “In addition, we asked everyone to tighten their belts, and we had people who didn't spend their entire bond money last year. We did not replace positions. We were able to be in the black for $489,000… We have a good story for 21-22, but we want to make sure for 22-23, we have dotted all the i's and crossed all the ti's.”

Gistinger also revealed that enrollment is coming in higher than expected for the 2022-2023 school year, with only 19 students less than fall 2021, and more incoming in classes besides kindergarten. They had anticipated a decline of approximately 145 students.

Due to that, Gistinger said, “We have made a millage adjustment to catch the winter tax bill, a slight increase from 2.4815 mills approved in May, to 2.5326 mills,” she said, due to preliminary student count and increase in property values.

“It's a result of that increase in enrollment, because it's a calculation of enrollment times property values, and we just have to increase those mills a tiny amount to the $3,755 per student of homestead millage we are permitted to levy,” Gistinger said.

“That is a cause for celebration after what we have been through,” said trustee Lori Ajlouny.


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