School briefs: District 834 approves preliminary budget

Board approves 2014-2015 preliminary budget

The Stillwater School Board approved the district’s preliminary budget for the 2014-2015 school year June 12, but not without concern for its incomplete state.

“I was going to ask questions, but the budget does not include the recent legislative decision, nor does it include the teacher contracts,” Board Member Kathy Buchholz said.

During the May 22 meeting, the board was presented with a draft of the preliminary budget that the financial staff acknowledged was incomplete due to recent changes to federal Title I funding, levy funds and state education funding.

With contract negotiations unfinished with four of the district’s seven bargaining groups and with the large teachers’ group contract finished later in the June 12 meeting, the 2014-2015 school budget has yet to be revised to reflect the actual financial situation of the school district.

“I’m wondering how far under our goal of a five percent unassigned fund balance we are,” Board Member George Hoeppner said. “In the preliminary budget, the unassigned fund balance say 3.4 percent, and the goal of five percent has not been met.”

The unassigned fund balance is projected to decrease from $4.7 million to $3.4 million, or about 1.3 percent of annual costs. The board had originally set the goal to increase this fund balance to 5 percent, or about $5 million.

A more accurate revision to the budget will be available after the annual financial audit is completed in October.

“The audit agents will be coming for field work for two weeks in July,” finance director Kristen Hoheisel said. “My office will start getting fairly solid financial numbers in the end of August.”

In the fall, the school board will also be able to reevaluate its budget needs based on the Oct. 1 student enrollment.

The school board needed to approve a preliminary budget by June 30 in order to submit a budget to the Minnesota Department of Education and start collecting their state-allotted funds.

A revised budget should be voted on by the school board during an October board meeting.

Lunch prices to increase by 10 cents next year

The Stillwater Area School Board unanimously passed an increase of 10 cents per lunch for the 2014-2015 school year.

Currently, district lunch prices are $2.30 at the elementary schools and $2.60 at the secondary schools. The increase will change lunch prices to $2.40 per meal at the elementary schools and $2.70 at the secondary schools.

“We needed to increase the price of the meal because of a mandate by the U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA and the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” director of operations Dennis Bloom said.

At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, the district’s food service fund balance was “next to nothing,” Bloom said, at $4,278. The increase to the lunch price will give the food service an additional $61,300 for its operating fund. “We decided to not increase cost to the breakfast option, so that we don’t discourage kids starting the day off with something to eat,” Bloom said. The price increase will go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year.