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District 88 Board holds work budget session

No state aid increases, possible cuts in funds expected

January 6, 2011
By Kremena Spengler Staff Writer

NEW ULM - The District 88 Board of Education reviewed enrollment and financial projections Wednesday, as it prepares next year's budget.

During a lengthy work session, Superintendent Harold Remme told the board he foresees no education funding increases next year; on the contrary, some project cuts in state funding. He also said shifts in school funding are likely to have a negative impact, necessitating cash flow borrowing.

Remme stressed that while in the past the board has spent down a portion of the fund balance to deal with pressures, it no longer has the fund balance cushion.

In part for the benefit of incoming board members, Remme restated some long-term priorities to keep in mind in budget planning. These priorities include: maintaining "reasonable" class sizes; protecting core course areas; basing staff reductions on enrollment change as much as possible; maintaining an adequate fund balance; and retaining a staff development emphasis.

Remme observed that he expects "mild" reductions in student enrollment next year - not enough to base staff reductions on enrollment change only.

He also recapped ideas to consider - ideas considered in the past, but rejected for various reasons. These ideas include: discontinuing all- day, every-day kindergarten; implementing a four-day week; increases in activity and activity admission fees; eliminating and reducing activities; eliminating elementary band during the school day; combining the fall dance and cheer teams; switching from two student councils and yearbooks at the high school to one; transitioning to volunteer activity workers; reducing work days for clerical, custodial and classified employees and the superintendent; reducing or eliminating summer extended contracts; a parking fee at the high school lot; obtaining concessions from employees, etc.

Business manager Myrna Meunier explained how state funding is calculated based on averaged and weighted daily enrollment; then went on the share some enrollment projections.

These projections indicate that enrollment is more or less "plateauing," with classes in the 150-165 range.

Meunier analyzed budget revisions likely coming up this year. General fund revenues at this point appear likely to be adjusted up 0.34 percent from the previously adopted budget; expenditures appear poised for an upward 4.47 percent adjustment.

The general fund unreserved balance (the operating balance at the board's discretion) was about $2.5 million at the end of the fiscal year 2009 and about $2.3 million at the end of last fiscal year. At the end of this year, this balance is expected to take a "big dip" to just under $1 million, pointed out officials.

Officials also shared information about current staffing patterns and how a change in them would reflect on class sizes; and expectations for changes in so called state integration funding - which has been used to fund elementary Spanish, but will no longer be available for this exact purpose.

A board member, Patricia Hoffman, made an emphatic point at the end of the session.

The budget discussion should incorporate consideration of ways to generate new revenue as an alternative to cuts, said Hoffman.

It takes time to build the public trust and good will that would make this alternative successful, said Hoffman.

The next work session is tentatively planned for Jan. 20.



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