NEW ULM - District 88 manages its finances conservatively and is light on local levies, overhead and debt, auditor Sandra Hans of LarsonAllen told the Board of Education this week.
Only 14.6 percent of the district's operating revenue comes from local taxes, Hans said. In some districts, that's as much as 25 percent.
Less reliance on local levies is a mixed blessing - it also means that almost 85 percent of the district's operating revenue is outside the School Board's control, indicates Hans.
Chart by Kremena Spengler
According to the auditor's 2010 numbers, District 88 spends 63 percent of its budget on student instruction, 15 percent on student support services (such as counselors, nurses, etc.), 9 percent on maintenance, 6 percent on food and community services, 5 percent on administration, and 2 percent on other things.
Hans compared District 88 to state averages and also to other districts of its size in terms of various categories of spending.
She pointed out that District 88 spends less than average in most categories - administration and debt service spending, in particular, stand out as low.
Spending on regular instruction and food service is below state and peer averages as well.
"Districts like the regular education spending number to be [relatively] high," said Hans. "You are just a very conservative district."
Spending on pupil and instructional support services, maintenance, and special education is below state averages and just above, or similar to, averages for similar-sized districts.
Spending on vocational education and transportation is higher than state and peer averages - and that's a long-term trend for District 88.
Vocational programs depend on student interest, which is traditionally high here, said Hans.
Transportation spending has to do with the district's geography - buses can only cross a river at certain points, she pointed out.
Also, districts that contract for busing, such as New Ulm, tend to have higher costs but newer fleets.
The broken-down numbers compared by the auditor are for last year - but Hans noted that the conclusions also represent a consistent multi-year trend.