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Budgeting difficult for charter schools, too

Charter School Spirit

March 29, 2012
By Sandra Stugelmeyer - Business Manager , Lafayette Charter School

"Every time I have a great idea, someone has to bring up the budget!" says Charlie Brown. At Lafayette Charter School we have lots of great ideas and we also have a budget. At this time of the year we are very busy budgeting for the next school year. Our budget timetable requires that a budget for the following school year be board-approved by June 30, which means it must be ready for the June board meeting on the second Tuesday at 6 p.m. However, budgeting for the year beginning July 1 starts in earnest by the previous January. Already we are taking quotes for products and services, estimating enrollment numbers, anticipating revenues and calculating expenses. The school board has already seen a preliminary budget and they will review one more in May before adopting the official budget in June.

In all things financial we strive for ethical faithfulness to good business practices, to board policies, to accounting principles, and to our mission: "To create a positive learning environment for general education enhanced with agricultural and electronic technology to benefit students, school and community." These things guide us through each year as we manage the resources entrusted to us by the people of Minnesota. We never forget that we have been given a trust by the taxpayers to provide the best public education we can with the funds they have bestowed upon us. We are grateful for the opportunity to use those funds for the sake of the wonderful children who attend Lafayette Charter School.

This school year has been challenging financially because of the state legislature's decision to hold back 40 percent of our state funding beyond the end of the school year. To maintain a positive cash flow under such circumstances, Lafayette Charter School will have to do something we don't like doing: borrow money. To balance the state budget, legislators decided to let the public schools finance that 40 percent, thus adding to schools' costs. We have met this challenge with diligent cash flow planning and a healthy relationship with our local lender. More significantly, due to the historically prudent policies of our school board and management, our general fund balance is enough to provide most of the cash we need. Many schools are not so fortunate and will incur considerable interest costs.

At LCS we revise our budget and cash flow plan at least quarterly, monitoring very closely the actual revenues and expenses. Yet, state and federal funding and good business practices are not enough to cover our costs. LCS is the recipient of widespread financial support from parents, grandparents, businesses and community members. We gratefully received $11,000 just this past February through the annual auction sponsored by our parent organization "Parents Reaching Out for Students" (PROS). It takes all of us doing the most we can and being ethically faithful to our policies, principles, purposes and promises to provide a financially sustainable future for Lafayette Charter School.



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