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Paynesville Press - February 1, 2006

Revised district budget shows impact of state funding increase

By Michael Jacobson

Thanks in large part to a four-percent funding increase from the state - the first in several years - the revised budget of the Paynesville Area School District for the 2005-06 school year looks a lot better.

Since the school district's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30 each year, the school board had to approved a budget before the legislature completed its session last summer. As a result, superintendent Todd Burlingame did not include any funding increase from the state in the original budget, which showed a projected general fund deficit of $232,500. In that budget, general fund revenues were expected to be $8.293 million with general fund expenditures at $8.536 million.

Now, including the four-percent funding increase from the state, general fund revenues are expected to be $8.659 million, up $366,000 from the original budget. General fund expenditures have also been raised, but not as much as projected revenue, reducing the proposed deficit to $12,700.

chart (The district's total budget for 2005-06 is now just over $10 million, which includes a $100,000 deficit in debt redemption, the account dedicated to repaying bond issues for building projects. The levy for debt service is down because there is a sufficient balance in this fund to pay this year's debt payments, even with the lower levy. In the school district finances, however, the key fund is the general fund, which includes classroom expenditures, etc.)

In the revised budget, projected general fund expenditure increases total $126,000, up to $8.672 million from $8.536 million. This $126,000 in increases includes: $50,000 for salary and benefits (new two-year contracts were settled this fall with the teacher's union as well as the custodians and food service staff); $26,000 for higher natural gas costs; $25,000 for special education tuition (the district needs to pay for services for a special education student who is attending another district); $15,000 for a health and safety project; $14,000 for additional interest expense (the district borrows against future aid for cash-flow purposes each year); and $8,000 for extra fuel costs under the busing contract.

Despite the good budget news - and the trend for the district to budget conservatively - more budget adjustments will be made this year in preparation for 2006-07. Due to declining enrollment, the district still needs to look at paring costs, though it also will be adding programs in 2006-07, like more college-credit courses, said Burlingame.

The school board directed administration last week to start making a list of proposed budget adjustments for 2006-07. Burlingame said he hopes to bring a list to the board's last meeting in February on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

In addition to budget increases, some cuts will need to be made, primarily because PAHS will graduate 95 seniors this spring, while PAES has 90 kids eligible for kindergarten. Typically, some students who are eligible for kindergarten wait a year to enroll. If 80 students enroll in kindergarten next year, that is a net loss of 15 students, which at $5,000 apiece (a rough estimate of state aid) equals $75,000.

Ways to trim costs for 2006-07 will be known better after high school registration this week and after kindergarten round-up in early March, said Burlingame. Also, during February, the district should learn how many teachers intend to retire, as simply not replacing retiring teachers is the easiest way to make budget cuts, much easier than handing out pink slips a year later.

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