NEW ULM - The District 88 Board of Education Thursday approved a preliminary budget for next year, a new one-year contract with the superintendent, a new format for board meetings, and a small increase in lunch prices.
The 2012-13 preliminary budget projects overall school revenues (including operating, food service, community education and other revenues) at $22,718,629. It projects overall expenditures at $23,129,643.
The operating (general-fund) revenues are projected at $19,595,651, and the operating expenditures at $20,024,819.
The budget does not reflect the outcome of ongoing employee bargaining.
Among some major assumptions, the budget reflects a projected $550,000 in salary decreases and $60,000 in benefit decreases due to staff reductions.
It also reflects a 10 percent decrease in federal funding for basic-literacy (Title I and II) programs.
After giving Superintendent Harold Remme a positive performance review, the board approved his salary for next year at $106,212, down from $107,462 this year.
The reduction reflects a pay freeze and a three-day furlough championed by Remme, as a way for him to help ease budget pressures.
The only other change in the contract, according to board negotiator Susan Nierengarten, is the change in the district's expense for Remme's health insurance. Under his contract, the district pays premiums for the superintendent.
The board approved a new format for its meetings starting in July.
The first monthly board meeting will start at 5 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, and it will be a study session devoted to discussion rather than action.
Study sessions will focus on strategic topics. Topics suggested by the administration include: emerging technology applications in the classroom, grade level placements within buildings, teacher and principal evaluations, standards-based reporting, etc.
Board members suggested extra topics during the meeting, such as: evaluation of the six-period day that will be implemented at the high school next year; online learning; realignment of practices and long-range goals.
Study sessions will not be televised, to make it easier for those members of staff or the public who may be camera-shy to share ideas.
The second monthly board meeting, on the fourth Thursday of each month, will start at 7 p.m. as is the case now. This meeting will focus on action items.
Remme said he sees the change, which he proposed, as a way to increase transparency and more closely involve staff and members of the public in decision-making in the district.
The board approved a 10-cent increase in lunch prices to conform with new federal guidelines.
Elementary lunch prices will go up to $2, and secondary lunch prices will go up to $2.15.
Breakfast and adult lunch prices will remain unchanged at $1.35 and $3.30 respectively.
The federal change has to do with new nutrition requirements for programs that collect federal reimbursements.
School lunch programs in the nation have been mandated to incorporate more varied and fresh vegetables and fruit and more whole grains, while also meeting not just minimum but also maximum age-based calorie guidelines.
The new federal rules seek to decrease obesity.
To pay for the change, programs are asked to increase prices as a condition of collecting federal reimbursements.