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Paynesville Press - July 12, 2006

School district passes nearly balanced budget

By Addi Larson and Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board recently passed a nearly balanced budget for its 2006-07 school year, which runs from July 2006 until June 2007. According to state law, the district needs to have a budget in place by July 1 each year, and the board passed the initial budget at its last meeting in June.

School Budget The budget calls for slight deficit spending (-$2,993 in the general fund and -$36,303 in all), but this deficit is largely the result of a defict in the debt redemption fund.

Each year, the school district levies taxes and receives state aid to pay against existing debt (mostly for past building projects). This year, due to a $180,000 balance in the district's debt redemption fund, the revenue needed for 2006-07 has been reduced to $780,522, while expenses are $823,200, resulting in a deficit of $42,678, accounting for the $36,303 overall deficit.

The reduction in revenue needed for debt redemtion should be good news for local taxpayers, resulting in a lower tax levy, said superintendent Todd Burlingame.

The rest of the budget - general fund, food service, Community Education, and capital - actually shows a projected balance of $6,375.

Only once in the past ten years has the district passed a balanced budget, with the 2006-07 budget coming very close to being balanced.

The overall budget calls for $10.377 million in revenue with $10.413 million in expenditures, resulting in the $36,303 deficit.

This year, Burlingame broke capital expenditures, which used to be included in the general fund, into a separate category. The district is planning roof replacements this summer and is keeping a careful eye on its capital fund, which annually pays for curriculum items (one-third) and for building and maintenance needs (two-thirds).

Budget Comparison Had the capital fund, which projects a $3,579 balance for 2006-07, been included in the general fund for the budget this year, the general fund would have shown a balance instead of a small deficit ($2,993).

Another reason that the capital fund was broken into a separate category this year, according to Burlingame, is due to the district office's new financial software. This software is a tool to help the board account for the financial implications of its decisions.

That software, along with the concious inclusion of all projected revenues and expenditures, should give the district "a truer budget," added Burlingame. Over the past five years, the district has average a $400,000 positive variance between its budget projections and its actual financial performance, as revealed in the district's annual audit.

It was a goal of the district office this year to have better estimates in the 2006-07 budget, said Burlingame.

The 2005-06 audit should be completed this fall, showing the district's financial position as of June 30. The accuracy of the 2006-07 budget will not be know until the fall of 2008.

The 2006-07 budget also includes another four percent aid increase from the state. Last year, the district also got a four percent aid increase, but the state legislature did not finish until after the district passed its original budget. The original budget, therefore, projected a deficit of $354,000, which has now been reduced to a deficit of $115,000, of which $100,000 is a similar deficit in the debt redemtion fund.

In all, the 2006-07 district budget calls for a 2.5 percent increase in revenue and a 1.7 percent increase in spending.

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