NEW ULM - During its regular meeting on Thursday, the District 88 School Board considered - but did not yet approve - a list of budget adjustments for next year.
The adjustments, spanning the areas of personnel, fund balance, transfers and other, total $928,000.
Budget modifications based on, but not necessarily the same as, the list shared at the meeting are expected to be approved on April 8.
This delay provides an opportunity for public consideration and accommodates a public input meeting scheduled on April 6.
Superintendent Harold Remme explained why the adjustments are needed.
He said that no increase is projected in education funding next year; that, actually, reductions are likely in state funding; and that some state funding shifts already enacted will negatively impact cash flow.
The suggested adjustments to next year's budget factor in enrollment projections and a foundation formula reduction of 2 percent, said Remme.
The changes also reflect a district policy that calls for maintaining a fund balance of $600 to $650 per pupil unit.
Remme recapped the priorities that the list of changes seeks to maintain: a reasonable class size; basing staff reductions on enrollment change as much as possible; an adequate fund balance; and a continued emphasis on staff development.
More specifically, the list of adjustments includes: $407,500 in personnel cuts; spending $350,000 of the fund balance; transfers worth $87,500; and $83,000 worth of other changes.
The personnel savings come from the following areas: $125,000 as a result of an early retirement incentive approved for five staff members; reducing the equivalent of 1.9 teaching contracts at the high school primarily based on enrollment and registration for courses ($95,000); reducing one special education position at Jefferson School ($50,000); reducing half a teaching position ($25,000) and a paraprofessional position ($15,000), both in early childhood special education; cutting the equivalent of 0.25 of a contract in teaching English to English language learners ($12,500); reducing 0.6 of a math teaching contract at Washington School ($30,000); discontinuing the position of academic coordinator of excellence ($50,000); and cutting one summer helper ($5,000).
Fund balance use
As far as spending down the fund balance, Remme explained that as of last July, it amounted to $2,496,116.
At the end of this school year, the fund balance is projected to fall to $2,073,329.
If the districts spends $350,000 of that, it will be left at the end of the 2010-2011 school year with a balance of $1,723,329.
To comply with the district policy, the fund balance has to be at least $1,520,500 - so, "there will still be a little cushion left."
The district would be transferring $50,000 from its German Land Trust Fund, to purchase textbooks, Remme explained.
This type of transfer is legally-allowed and has been done in the past.
Another $37,500 will be transferred from the operating capital fund into the general fund.
A transfer of $51 per pupil unit out of districts' operating capital funds was authorized by state legislators, for this and next year. District 88 would not be transferring the full authorized amount (that would be $116,000).
The district would begin transitioning grade seven and eight extra-curricular activities to Community Education. The measure is expected to save the general fund $50,000.
The district would also reduce supplies by 5 percent ($30,000); reduce administrative travel by $1,500; and maximize paperless reporting ($1,500).
In summary, personnel reductions account for 43.9 percent of the adjustments; the use of fund balance for $37.7 percent; transfers for 9.4 percent; and the "other" category for 8.9 percent, under the plan, said Remme.
Ideas NOT recommended
Remme also listed ideas that have been considered - but are not being recommended at present. He pointed out that many of these ideas will need to be revisited in the future.
These ideas include: discontinuing all-day every-day kindergarten; implementing a four-day school week; restructuring of the bus contract ("a work in progress," Remme said); activity and admission fee increases; eliminating the pep band; combining the fall dance and cheer teams; reducing the number of activities and coaches; combining the Yearbooks and Student Councils that are now separate for grades 7-8 and grades 9-12; transitioning to volunteer activity workers; reducing work days for clerical, custodial and administrative staff; charging other schools more in paired activity situations; restructuring special education services; moving elementary band from daytime to after-school programming; reduction or elimination of summer contracts; a parking fee at the high school lot.
In addition, the school board approved a two-year contract with clerical employees.
Most of the employees concerned - about 20 in all - will receive a 10-cent per hour salary hike this year and a 5-cent per hour raise next year.
The district contribution to individual health insurance premiums will increase from $464 a month to $526 this year, and $586 next year.
The district contribution to family premiums will increase from $833 to $999.72 this year, and $1,187 next year.
The $200 district contribution to the employees' retirement plan will be discontinued.
Overall, the changes will cost the district 4.3 percent more.
The school board approved summer construction projects totalling $265,478.
Separately, it approved a project to replace windows at Jefferson and Washington Schools with energy-efficient triple-pane windows, for a total of $318,717.
The projects will be funded with deferred maintenance and capital reserves, regular operating capital revenue, and a local health and safety levy.