B y Dan King

Despite fiscal concerns voiced Board of Education member Frank Barber, Whitehall Central School Business Administrator Joe Karas isn’t worried.

Barber looked at the monthly budget status report and saw what on the surface appeared to be some alarming deficits in some of the district’s funds, including going over by $140,557.25 in instructional media and $86,271.13 for non-instructional salaries.

Karas said that accidental listing of expenditures under the wrong category made the budget look worse than it is.

“We aren’t actually $86,000 over in non-instructional salaries, they were put in under the wrong budget code,” Karas said. “Sometimes you can type a budget code and be off by a number, then it’s in the wrong category. It will be correct in next month’s report.”

Additionally, some other funds that were listed as over the budgeted amount came from situations where the district was awarded a grant and it “had to spend the money to get the money.”

“We’ll be getting that money back,” Karas said. “You just have to spend it to get it.”

Those expenses went toward such things as new textbooks, which are more closely aligned with Common Core modules.

Karas said ultimately the only number that matters on the budget status report is the original budget of $14,772,352.11.

“As long as we’re not over that number, we’re fine,” Karas said. “If we go over that number, we’re in big trouble, but we won’t go over it.”

The report indicated that as of last month, the district still had $2,460,488.67 to spend; Karas said that number has declined quite a bit since then, but that the district still won’t overspend its allocated budget.

He said expenses such as the fuel and heating of the school have been an ongoing constraint on the budget.

“Last month’s bill (for fuel) was $60,000, that’s a lot of money,” Karas added, saying that the district’s antiquated heating system and single pane windows have caused heating of the high school to be an expensive task.

He said that if the district were to go through an energy audit and look at replacing the heating system and single pane windows, it could save millions of dollars in the long run.

“That’s my job, to look at the most cost effective ways to do things for this district,” he said. “This school is the center of the community.”

Despite the growing cost to heat the buildings, especially with the excessively cold winter, Karas said the budget is in good shape.

“Sometimes we take on unanticipated expenses, but that’s why we have reserve funds,” Karas said.

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