By Tom Tolen /

The Brighton Board of Education adopted a $79.6 million budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year at its meeting Monday night - a budget that is actually less than the budget for the current year ending June 30th.

The reduction is due to a dramatic drop in state revenues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The budget for the 20-21 fiscal year is $2.5 million less than the amended, $82.1 million spending amount for the 2019-20 year which was also approved Monday night. Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Michael Engelter told the board that preparing a school budget is not an exact science because “it’s based on many unknowns, like student count.” And he based it in part on a flat enrollment of about 6,000 in-house students. That doesn’t include the Shared Services program, in which Brighton gains several million dollars in additional revenue each year by offering non-core curriculum courses to small schools that do not offer those programs.

Engelter told the board that Brighton, like other school districts around the state, was struck a financial blow when the pandemic came along, and the state is now talking about a likely $650 reduction in per-pupil aid to local school districts. Engelter said that would be a financial hit of $5.3 million in just one year. Due to COVID-19-related revenue losses stemming from the closing of schools, the 2019-20 fund balance has dropped to $7.8 million - considerably less than pre-pandemic projections of around $9 million. Even during the current school year the district has felt the pinch, with no revenues coming in from the food service and community education programs since the school shutdown. That has combined for a loss of about $240,000 in revenue in the last quarter of the school year.

At its July meeting, the board will consider placing a Headlee override on the November election ballot. Due to rising property values since the recent recession, the district will be required to institute a Headlee rollback on non-homestead property unless there is a successful ballot initiative this fall. Non-homestead does not mean a person’s primary home or property. Rather, it’s defined as commercial properties, second homes, vacation cottages or additional properties a district resident owns. A rollback would put another dent in the district’s fund revenue picture. With it, the district will be levying 17.96 mills this year on non-homestead property, rather than the full 18 mills. The Headlee Amendment to the state constitution requires that millage rates be rolled back if property values rise faster than the inflation rate, which was a low 2.3% in 2019.

Tonight, the board will meet in a 6 p.m. workshop session, and in addition will vote to hire an interim superintendent who will serve until a permanent successor to Greg Gray is secured. Gray will be leaving the district on June 30th after serving as superintendent for the past 11 years.