Editor's note: This is the first article in an occasional series on budget deliberations in School District 88, ahead of adopting a budget for 2010-11. This article overviews the process and timelines of budget development.
By Kremena Spengler Staff Writer
NEW ULM - The District 88 Board of Education is beginning the process of consideration of next year's budget, with the first of a series of work sessions coming up in mid-December (tentatively Dec. 16).
The board is following a familiar pattern of deliberation - starting with a consideration of a variety of factors affecting the budget, followed by setting budget targets, then deciding on the necessary specific action to achieve them, according an outline of the process drafted by Superintendent Harold Remme.
The first budget work session is expected to focus on: enrollment projections; financial projections (including reserved and unreserved fund balances, the revenue impact of enrollment projections, other revenue assumptions, and the expenditure projections based on such assumptions); and current staffing patterns (elementary section sizes and secondary section sizes in core subjects and electives).
The second work session (yet unscheduled) will review non-personnel related expenditures such as textbook purchases, technology improvements, supplies and health and safety.
During that session, the board will also discuss the impact of employee bargaining: the financial impact per bargaining group (the percent impact of each employee group's compensation package), as well as the impact of health and retirement benefits.
The board will proceed with estimating the financial gap between revenues and expenditures, as determined by revenue and expenditure assumptions.
It will look at options resulting from various expenditure assumptions, and discuss methods for making reductions: across the board percentage reductions; selectively reducing expenditures by varying amounts; the use of fund balances to minimize reductions; or a combination of these approaches.
The board will go on to determine target dollar amounts for fund balance maintenance and for expenditure reductions.
During the third work session, the board is expected to discuss the impact on class sizes of staffing pattern changes, and program modifications to be considered.
Budget preparation is an almost year-round process that began with the board hearing an audit report Nov. 22 and current-year budget revisions in December.
The school board is expected to set a budget reduction target sometime between next Jan. 11 and 27.
In January and February, staff will be invited to share input on reductions with the building principals, who would report to the school board on the staffing pattern alternatives.
Administrative recommendations for reductions will be made in late February or early March; and the school board will take action on them in late March.
School board action on placing staff on unrequested leave of absence will take place in mid-April through late May.
Unlike regular school board meetings, work sessions are not televised, but they are publicized and open to anyone interested in attending.