EARLY - Early school trustees adopted on Tuesday a balanced budget and approved tax rates that are the same as the past year, but not before a hectic week of cost-cutting prompted by slightly-less-than-projected student enrollment.

Anticipated revenues in the 2011-2012 operations budget for the Early Independent School District total $9,444,104, with appropriations of $9,320,486. By comparison, the amounts budgeted for the 2010-2011 year which ends today were $9,598,545 and $9,019,023, according to documents made available by the district.

"We don't have much wiggle room in our budget," Superintendent Brett Koch told the board. "Next year, it's going to be even closer. We're going to be spending all the way down to nickels and dimes."

The property tax rates approved by the board for the coming year are $1.04 per $100 valuation for operations and maintenance, and 35.95 cents for interest and sinking, or bonded debt.

Administrators told the board that keeping the current tax level for debt would not cover the expense, and $148,000 would be needed from its fund balance, or reserves. However, Koch said the district is investigating refinancing some of its older debt in a process that could save the district $207,000 over the next five years. That matter will be considered at a September board meeting.

"We went back and made the necessary cuts," Koch said, after student enrollment did not reach the level original budget calculations had anticipated. State revenues are figured on enrollment. A new figure of 1,150 was used for budgeting, and attendance so far has been in the 1,188 range, at 99.1 percent of enrollment. Good attendance is 96 percent, Koch said.

In addition to savings in smaller areas, big ticket items like a new bus and a new school car were deleted to balance the budget. However, Koch said the board will need to restore those when possible.

"Hats off to our administrators for working so hard on this budget," Koch said. "And we still have a lot of work to do."

Trustees also adopted the food service budget of $812,625, the Heartland Co-op budget of $1,318,762 and the debt service budget of $1,597,853.

The board approved amendments to the 2010-2011 budget that will ensure that no functions will go over budget. Financial information presented by the school district showed that actual revenues for the year ending today were about $250,000 more than the amount budgeted, and expenses were some $106,000 less than budgeted.