Brainerd Public Schools officials will work to increase the district’s “rainy day” fund over the next five years.

The district’s unassigned general fund, which Business Services Director Marci Lord described essentially as a rainy day fund, sits at less than 8% of the yearly operating budget, which is less than one month of expenses. But before changes approved Monday, March 22, the district’s policy stated the fund balance only had to have 5-7% of yearly operating expenses. Board members have toyed with the idea of changing the policy over the past couple years, with 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic driving the district into a budget deficit and increasing the urgency for ensuring there is extra money in the bank.

Lord brought proposed revisions to the board March 8 for preliminary approval and again March 22 for final approval. Instead of requiring 5-7% of yearly operating expenses, the policy now states the district will work to increase the fund balance each year to attain at least 10% the annual budget. Lord said the goal is to get to 10% in the next five years, which would mean putting $400,000 away each year.

RELATED: Low enrollment drives Brainerd Public Schools budget deficit

The state recommends having 25% — or three months worth of expenses — but both Lord and Superintendent Laine Larson said they feel comfortable with working toward the 10% now, as it’s something attainable, and revisiting the policy in the future once that goal is reached.

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Board Chair Bob Nystrom said 10% seems like a prudent goal, and board member Tom Haglin, who has been vocal in the past about updating the policy, thanked Lord and Larson for their work.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Haglin said March 8. “We have to get to a larger fund balance. You just never know on those rainy days when we’re going to need it, so I appreciate the work. And I also appreciate the work of outlining what it takes as far as the $400,000 each year to get to that kind of a level.”

RELATED: Brainerd School Board approves preliminary 2020-21 budget

Revisions to the policy also state when the unassigned general fund balance is projected to decrease, the district shall initiate one or more of the following measures:

  • Reduce expenditures through implementation of cost containment measures,

  • Seek opportunities to increase revenue, including considering fee increases where appropriate,

  • Examine options to increase enrollment,

  • If permitted by state law, research the possibilities of additional revenue through an operating referendum, or

  • Other financial options or budget control measures.

Lord said the district already implements some of these measures, but she felt it was a good idea to specifically put them in the policy.

School board members approved the second and final reading of the new policy March 22.

In other business Monday, the school board:

Approved new hires to the district: Travis Moller, special education teacher at Riverside Elementary School; Eric Charpentier, assistant Alpine ski coach at Brainerd High School; Alexandra Clough, dance coach at BHS; Julie Davidge, dance coach at BHS; Karley Dunham, athletic official at Forestview Middle School; Terri Ebinger, dance coach at BHS; Adam Extrand, assistant boys hockey coach at BHS; Daniel Fox, districtwide building systems administrator; Joseph Frazier, assistant girls hockey coach at BHS; Greg Gearey, assistant varsity girls basketball coach at BHS; Joseph Hanowski, assistant girls hockey coach at BHS; Courtney Haugstad, districtwide long-term nurse substitute; David Herath, assistant junior high boys swim coach at Forestview; Caleb Johnson, districtwide building systems administrator; Karla Kunde, special education paraprofessional at Washington Educational Services Building; Ava Loney, athletic official at Forestview; Logan McElfresh, intramural strength coach at BHS; Christina Nagel, head varsity girls lacrosse coach at BHS; Jolene Owen, lead ninth grade girls basketball coach at BHS; and Tate Rusk, assistant girls hockey coach at BHS.

Accepted donations to the district: $200 from Costco to the school lunch Angel Fund; $250 from Rachael Von Bank for baseball team shirts for community education activities; and $250 from Jeremy Miller for baseball banners for community education activities.

Approved the purchase and installation of Flagship Recreation playground equipment at the high school’s south campus, which will be converted into transitional and other programs housed at Lincoln Education Center. The cost is $216,322.25.

Approved a public address system from Digital Horizons for Lowell Elementary School at a cost of $87,477.



THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.