ISD 181 School Board: First look at next year's budget
The Brainerd School Board's Finance Committee Wednesday got the first look at the school district's preliminary budget for next year. Steve Lund, director of business services for the district, simplified things by highlighting four main pages of...
The Brainerd School Board's Finance Committee Wednesday got the first look at the school district's preliminary budget for next year.
Steve Lund, director of business services for the district, simplified things by highlighting four main pages of the 46-page presentation. The 2016-17 general fund budget includes the following main points:
- An increase in general education formula aid of 2 percent,
- An increase of approximately 2 percent in state funding for reimbursement of special education costs,
- An increase in state special education reimbursement funding for additional costs proposed,
- An increase in enrollment of approximately 82 more students than 2014-15,
- A planned addition of approximately 13.5 full-time equivalent staff positions,
- Estimated increase in employee costs for the current labor agreements,
- An overall net increase in revenues of 2.8 percent,
- An overall net increase in expenses of 3.7 percent,
- An increase in the overall net operating deficit from approximately $700,000 to $1.47 million,
- A reduction of the unassigned fund balance to a level equal to 7.4 percent of general fund expenses.
Students and staff
It's important for the district to accurately project enrollment, Lund said, because it is so closely tied to the district's revenue. The projection for next year's enrollment starts with the enrollment at the end of this year, he said, and is also reliant on the number of incoming kindergarteners and the number of outgoing seniors graduating. The projection also includes the number of students gained or lost as they progress from grade to grade.
The district is predicting an increase of 81 students for 2016-17, bringing the projected district enrollment for the upcoming year to 6,564. This is an increase of 1.28 percent over last year's enrollment.
"As of right now, we feel that's as accurate of a prediction of enrollment that we can make," Lund said.
The district is planning to add 15.2 full-time equivalent employees for the coming year and eliminating 1.7 FTE, producing a net change of 13.5 FTE. The district employs about 933 FTE, Lund said, and the district's largest employment group is teachers. There's about 455 FTE teachers included in the 2016-17 budget after adding 11 FTE teachers.
The preliminary budget is only based on what the district knows at the time, Lund said. Things will become more clear when school starts in the fall, he said, which is why the first budget revision in January helps check the projections the district has made.
"This is the course we're charting right now," Lund said.
The district's recent trend of deficit spending is concerning and can't continue, interim Superintendent Bob Gross said. The fund balances are getting low, he said, which means the district will have to start looking at different tough options to balance the budget. This could include program reductions, increasing class sizes, reducing elementary classroom supports or reducing personnel costs, he said.
The best option would be to increase revenue, Gross said, which would come from increasing enrollment. It's not likely the state government will increase revenue to the districts, he said, so it's up to the district to attract more students who may be going to school elsewhere.
Lund spent some time explaining the district's staffing levels as they relate to comparable districts like those in Willmar, Alexandria, St. Cloud, Fergus Falls and more. On a students per staff member basis, Brainerd staff members serve about 1.5 more students per staff member than those comparable districts, he said.
"Comparatively, we have less teachers," Lund said. "We have higher ratios, we have less teachers."
On the other hand, the district has a higher level of educational assistants than its comparable districts, Lund said. The district has one EA for every 34 students, while the district's peers have one EA for every 52 students. Part of this can be correlated to the district's higher percentage of special education students, he said.
"If you perhaps have a higher concentration of higher needs special ed students, you will require a higher level of staffing," Lund said.
The district is budgeting $50,000 more in substitute teacher pay for 2016-17, Lund said, a figure that hasn't been adjusted in 30 years. The district has had a more difficult time filling its substitute teacher needs, he said. The increase in budgeted pay will go to raising the substitute teacher pay rate and providing incentives for substitute teachers to work in Brainerd more often.
"If you substitute here more often, we want to develop a compensation structure for teacher substitutes that will incent them to be here in Brainerd," Lund said.
The Finance Committee unanimously recommended approving the preliminary budget to the full school board at its June 13 meeting.
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