The Mansfield school district managed to keep the current tax rate and give its staff raises, despite a computer glitch that chewed up the district’s comfort zone and took a bite out of the reserve fund.At the Aug. 26 meeting, trustees adopted a $253,361,980 general fund budget for 2014-2015, that included a minimum of 2 percent raises for teachers (more dependent upon years of experience), 3 percent increase for paraprofessionals and 2 percent raise for professionals/administrators. The budget keeps the tax rate is $1.5271 per $100 of property value, with $1.04 for maintenance and operations funds and 48.71 cents for debt service funds.But the district had to take $4,241,371 from the reserve balance, currently at $95.8 million, after a defect in the Skyward financial software left 165 vacant staff positions out of the budget. “There was a mistake,” Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas told trustees. “(Karen Weisman, associate superintendent of business and finance) found it, she made me aware of it. We brought in a second opinion. We are fairly certain what we are presenting to you tonight is accurate.”This is the second year that the Mansfield school district has used Skyward to plan the budget, which means last year’s budget could also be off, Weisman said.“That means that our salary budget was short,” she said. “We’ll know when we finish the fiscal year (on Aug. 31).”Weisman said she started to get suspicious after the Aug. 5 budget work session.“There’s a smell factor and it stunk,” she said. “By (Aug. 15), I knew we had a problem. After I determined what it was going on, I called Skyward.“The default setting with Skyward was considered a defect,” Weisman said. “We’re not going to use the Skyward template from this point forward. We will use our own. There’s no way to change the default and it does not include the vacancies.”Mansfield, with 32,000 students, is the largest school district that uses the finance software from Skyward, which has 1,500 clients around the world, district officials said.“If we’re going to continue to find these problems, maybe its time to start looking at something else,” said school trustee Beth Light.Last year’s $236,067,409 general fund budget also required dipping into the reserves for $845,905 and included raises for the staff. By refinancing a pair of bonds at a lower interest rate, the district was able to drop the debt service fund tax from 50 cents per $100 of assessed value to 48.71 cents.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451 Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM