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District 88 sets budget reduction target

Target is $450,000 to $600,000

January 29, 2010
By Kremena Spengler Staff Writer

NEW ULM - The District 88 School Board on Thursday set a budget reduction target of $450,000 to $600,000 for next year.

The decision means administrators will try to develop a list of cuts amounting to this target; specific cuts will then be approved by the board later.

The board is shooting for even deeper cuts than recommended by Superintendent Harold Remme. He suggested cutting programming worth $350,000 to $500,000, after discussing several scenarios for school funding.

Board members felt the more optimistic scenarios are less likely to materialize than the more pessimistic ones, and that unforeseen circumstances tend to happen during the school year that increase spending (such as hiring an extra three or four paraprofessionals this year to meet special student needs).

Board members also noted that it is easier to add back programming than to make more cuts later.

The most difficult dynamic to factor in is, what will happen to school funding during the 2010 legislative session, noted Remme.

If education is held harmless, to address the state's $1.2 billion budget deficit in 2010-11, all other government budgets would be reduced by 25 percent. This is highly unlikely.

So one expectation factored into the planning is that school funding will be reduced by $100 to $250 per pupil unit next year.

The board is implementing a combination approach to budget development - making cuts in combination with spending down part of the district's fund balance.

The board is planning to use up $350,000 of the fund balance, in addition to the cuts.

This approach still results in maintaining a fund balance in line with local policies. Specifically, it results in a projected unreserved fund balance of $767 per pupil unit (or an overall $1.8 million). "Unreserved" means the money can be spent at the board's discretion.

A local policy calls for maintaining an unreserved fund balance of $600 to $650 per pupil unit. But school leaders felt an extra cushion is needed, to counteract negative trends and unexpected events. Specifically, the board and administrators quoted as an example this week's state decision to delay payments to some schools this spring. State leaders are delaying payments to districts with an unreserved balance of $700 per pupil unit to address state cash flow problems.

The district should use some of its reserve cushion to "reduce the reduction target," said Remme. However, with even bigger state budget deficit looming in subsequent years, "there appears to be a long-term need for reductions." So, Remme said, it "would be prudent" to keep some of the fund balance cushion.

The District 88 budget parameters were set with the understanding that many factors are still unknown, and the numbers could change from tonight's targets.

The board also:

Adopted a revised budget for the current fiscal year. It is a common practice to revise the budget during the school year, when there is more clarity on revenues and expenditures.

The revised numbers are $23,585,506 in revenues and $24,198,511 in expenditures. In addition to day-to-day operations, these numbers include food service, community education, construction, debt redemption and trust money.

The revised budget shows an improvement over the adopted budget from June 2009. While still representing a general-fund deficit, this deficit is $98,300 smaller than the original adopted budget.

Approved an emergency closure make-up plan, converting June 4, if needed, into a student day and continuing on for the week of June 7, if additional emergency closure dates are needed.

Because of the number of days already missed to severe weather this year, future days of school missed due to weather or other emergencies should be made up, according to policies.

Very few days in the school calendar are available as non-student days. The only other possibility was Monday, April 5, the day after Easter. The board felt this option would be less attractive to families planning Easter travel.

Approved a pay equity report.

Governmental agencies are required to periodically submit reports of employee compensation patterns to the Department of Employee Relations. Based on data prepared for submission, the district is expected to be compliant in each statistical area (such as salary range, exceptional service pay, etc.)

Heard a report from Mike Brigger of Healthy Communities Healthy Youth on the district results of a Search Institute survey of assets considered necessary for the healthy development of youth.



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