School Board: Last call for Gross

The Brainerd School Board Monday night approved the district's preliminary budget for the 2016-17 school year. The school board, meeting as the Finance Committee June 1, unanimously recommended the full board approve the preliminary budget. Monda...

Brainerd Public Schools interim superintendent Bob Gross said he wants to see current initiatives in the district move forward during his tenure. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)
Brainerd Public Schools interim Superintendent Bob Gross poses for a photo in the school district offices in this file photo. Monday night was Gross's last school board meeting with the district. (File photo)

The Brainerd School Board Monday night approved the district's preliminary budget for the 2016-17 school year.

The school board, meeting as the Finance Committee June 1, unanimously recommended the full board approve the preliminary budget. Monday, Board chair Tom Haglin briefly summed up the minutes of the June 1 meeting before the full school board unanimously approved the Finance Committee's recommendation.

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.


The district is predicting an increase of 82 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.
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 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.

In other business, interim Superintendent Bob Gross noted in his report the district's long-range facilities planning committee will have what will probably be its final meeting on Thursday. The committee will then present a recommendation to the school board at its July or August meeting. Haglin suggested the recommendation be presented to the school board's Facilities Committee, as opposed to the full board, a suggestion the other board members agreed with.

The district's new superintendent Laine Larson takes over on July 1, so Gross noted Monday night would be his last school board meeting. Gross has worked in the school district for 32 years, 19 of those as superintendent.

"This winds up 51 years of sitting at school board meetings," Gross joked.

Gross thanked the board for the opportunity to serve as interim superintendent for a year while the board completed a search to find a permanent superintendent. Gross had spent 15 years away from Brainerd in private education, so the past year was a reminder of the challenges facing public education.

"These will be struggles that aren't going to be solved next year or the following year, these are things we have to deal with," Gross said. "But you've got the nucleus in place here to really address those issues."

Board member Bob Nystrom thanked Gross for stepping in for a year and for providing strong leadership during his time at the helm of the school district. Haglin also thanked Gross for filling in while the board looked for a permanent superintendent.

"The timing was perfect for us, hopefully it worked for you as well," Haglin said.


Board member Reed Campbell was absent Monday.

In other business, the school board:

Approved membership for 2016-17 in the Minnesota Rural Education Association at a cost of $2,500. The base fee is $1,100, with the remaining $1,400 coming from a legislative fee. According to the organization's website, MREA "serves school districts throughout the state through advocacy, professional development and networking." The cost of $2,500 is the same as the previous year, Gross said, and the group has "done a commendable job" representing the district's interests at the state Legislature.

Approved a contract with CliftonLarsonAllen for audit and nonaudit services at a cost of $37,900. The cost is the same price for the third year in a row and has only risen 3.7 percent in the last decade. The contract covers services for the district's fiscal year ending June 30.

Approved a two-year contract agreement with the district's head cooks employment group for 2015-16 and 2016-17. The terms of the contract remain the same with the exception of a 3 percent increase in the wage schedule for each year of the contract.

Approved a field trip request from teachers Chris Fogderud and Kelsi Wright for a BHS Band trip to Washington, D.C. The trip will be from June 3-10, 2017. According to the trip request, students will participate in performances and clinics with area college faculty. Other musical opportunities include a D-Day Memorial Concert with Col. Arnold Gabriel on the National Mall on June 6, 2017. The trip is open to all members of the 2016-17 BHS Symphonic Band and Wind Symphony.

Accepted donations for the month of June totaling $16,021.

Accepted the resignations of the following staff members: Christian Halverson, Brainerd High School social studies teacher, resignation effective June 6; Nancy Huckstead, Early Childhood Family Education school readiness teacher, resignation effective June 6; Jeremiah Piepkorn, Forestview Middle School special education teacher, resignation effective June 6; Dawn Razidlo, on leave, resignation effective June 6; Katherine Rennicke, Riverside Elementary School special education teacher, resignation effective May 31; Bernadette Schultz, Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative autism consultant, resignation effective June 6.


SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or . Follow on Twitter at .

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