District 834 revises budget

Both revenues and expenditures for Stillwater Area Schools have gone up since the preliminary 2013-14 budget was presented in June.

District financial officer Kristen Hoheisel told the school board at Dec. 19 meeting that the revised budget revenues increased by $1.7 million due to an increase in state aid, grants and higher-than-projected-enrollment. She also added that expenditures have increased by $4.5 million due to an increase in operating capital, addition of PEP and other grants, OPEB (bonds) and the inclusion of various carry overs from last year.

“These look like staggering numbers but when it comes to these numbers it is mainly concerned with the timing of when the money comes in,” Hoheisel said. “For example a fiscal year ends on (June 30), anything that hasn’t been completed — like projects — then carries over to the next year. The money is there. It’s just carried over.”

Overall the district is financially healthy, Hoheisel said. When it comes to the general fund, the current projection is to have an $8.3 million fund balance, which could be described as similar to the district’s savings account. The $4.7 million will be in the unassigned fund balance, which can be spent in any way the district chooses, because it doesn’t have to go to a specified or required project. That amount represents 4.96 percent of the annual general fund expenses, which is slightly below the board’s policy of maintaining an unassigned fund balance of 5 percent.

But there is a concern with the food service fund, with the fund balance standing at $4,278.

“Revenues are down based on enrollment participation,” Hoheisel said. “Why participation is dropping is because with the healthy-and-hunger-free program, which is a required program, students aren’t as inclined to eat carrots and things that are healthy for them. So while we’re in this transition, they need time for their pallets to adjust. Also, funding for programs like free and reduced lunch aren’t funded as fully as they should be.”

Hoheisel suggested the district could raise the prices of school lunches, though she said that wouldn’t have to take place until this spring and wouldn’t go into effect until next school year.

“We have to look at the costs to support the healthy-and-hunger-free program. Our meal prices do need to go up, but I don’t know if we raise the price that it will be enough to keep up, and then there’s our demographics to consider,” Hoheisel said.

The community service fund has increased both in the revenue and expenditure portion of the budget but has remained relatively flat with $4.2 million for revenue, and $4.3 million for expenditures. The increases are credited to increased enrollment in the school-age care programs.

The total for all funds is $107 million in revenues, $118.5 million in expenditures and a fund balance of $11.2 million.

“Even with the passage of the levy, money is tight,” Hoheisel said. “Based on our budget there are opportunities to look at different ways to do things. The annual inflation we face is 4-6 percent, and health insurance costs, heat, lights, utilities are out of our control. We continue to work on contract agreements, too, and state funding hasn’t kept up with the inflation fund rate, with federal funding being at 1.6-1.7 percent, which is not what our expenses are doing. Our work continues to develop a balanced budget to reach the balance we desire and continue to attract quality employees to our district.”

The budget will come before the board once more for possible revision in the spring. Hoheisel expects to include salary updates, grants and federal program adjustments that will come in throughout the year at the final budget meeting.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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