GFW details budget, strategic planning

GIBBON — Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Superintendent Jeff Horton wrapped his first 100-day plan and announced next steps for shaping the school district Monday.

Baird Financial Management financial consultants described a new budget model that he said enabled the school district to compare itself with similar-sized school districts including Sibley East, Belle Plaine, Jordan, Central (Norwood-Young America), Watertown-Mayer, Martin County West and Tri-City United.

Dr. Ryan Laager of Baird said with the detailed budget information, school districts could compare their budgets with other districts to see exactly how efficiently they are operating.

“The (GFW) budget picture is improving,” Horton said. He cited examples.

• Administrative restructuring saved $98,140.94.

• Operating levy referendum passage in August with 63% voter support for a projected $789,139.20 revenue addition.

• Bond refinancing saving $36,720.31 that is being passed directly to taxpayers.

• Budget efficiencies of $450,000 realized by more appropriately coding staff positions to restricted fund revenue sources, avoiding general fund costs.

Horton said a recent audit of last year’s district finances showed GFW was within 0.05% of accuracy on projections and ended $50,000 better than projected.

With additional efficiencies, the district is projecting a smaller negative, unassigned fund balance. Plus, the district is optimistic about exiting statutory operating debt faster than initially expected, Horton said.

“We have made a number of budget efficiencies using one-time efficiency opportunities to cover one-time situations,” said Horton. “We will continue to work through the budget to make future efficiencies. But, we still have work to do to create a sustainable, stable budget.”

Horton said the next GFW initiative is a strategic planning process built on detailed budgeting. He said he will continue to involve district stakeholders at every level of the process to develop a vision and mission that will define the district for the future.

Financial consultants Laager and Michel Hoheisel of Baird presented an operational budget assistant (OBA) model the district will use to set a sustainable budget.

The model will identify potential overspending in different areas and compare districts based on different criteria to benefit teaching and learning.

In addition, Horton reported:

“Our staff have really stepped up during COVID-19. Our students are doing great and our building are safe. Thank you staff, students and parents for your flexibility and commitment to helping us educate students in a safe environment.”

Horton said facilities accomplishments include a space assessment, 10-year, long-term facilities maintenance plan development and a purchase offer for the Fairfax school.

More updates are expected at coming board meeting, a new district e-mail newsletter and on social media. For more information, visit gfwschools.org.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbcusch@nujournal.com.


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