Dist. 16 School Board approves 2014-2015 budget

The Spring Lake Park School Board approved the district’s 2014-2015 budget at its meeting June 10.

The district expects to bring in $72.8 million in revenue and spend just under $72.4 million.

From the revised 2013-2014 budget, approved May 13, revenues will increase 3.5 percent in fiscal year 2015, and expenditures will decrease slightly, less than 1 percent. The decrease in expenditures is attributed primarily to fewer facilities projects this coming year, according to Amy Schultz, director of business services for District 16.

The fund balance is projected to increase $470,421 to nearly $17.9 million.

General fund

Accounting for approximately 77 percent of the total budget, general fund revenues and expenditures will increase with growing enrollment.

Enrollment has swelled by more than 1,000 pupil units in the last 10 years, and the district expects continued increases through the early 2020s.

This year, the district anticipates an additional 114 pupil units, spread across grade levels.

General education revenue will bring in an additional $630,000 for the district in 2014-2015, $5,831 per pupil unit.

“We know as a district that we are very fortunate to be growing and bringing in additional students each year,” Schultz said.

More students require more teachers. In addition to adding staff to accommodate higher enrollment, to meet a goal of reducing secondary class sizes, the district requires more staff yet.

Middle school class size targets were reduced by one to one-and-a-half students. On average, the district looks to see 28.83 students in sixth-grade classes and 29.5 in seventh- and eighth-grade classes in 2014-2015.

High school targets were reduced between 0.5 and one students. The average class size will be 30.83 in the fall.

Elementary class size targets will not change: 22 for kindergarten sections, 25 for first- through third-grade classes and 29 for fourth and fifth grades.

Staffing levels will continue to be finalized over the summer, Schultz said, unable to provide a specific number of additional teachers hired for 2014-2015.

Spring Lake Park, like all Minnesota schools, is increasingly dependent on the state for funding.

This year, some levy dollars shifted to state aid with revised equalization rates and formulas. Approximately 80 percent of the general fund revenue comes from the state, while taxes bring in 16 percent.

The shift is very good news for taxpayers, Schultz said. With additional state aid, the district was able to reduce the 2014 property tax levy. It was approved by the school board Dec. 17. Set at almost $20 million, the levy decreased 1.14 percent from 2013.

Changes in the equalization rates and formulas are fairly revenue neutral for the district, but the changes mean a healthy state economy is that much more critical for the district’s financial health, Schultz said.

Compensatory aid will decrease in 2014-2015, likely because the economy continues to improve, Schultz said.

Overall, compensation increased $2 million with higher salary and benefit costs, as well as additional employees.

Moving to a self-insured health plan in 2014 should bring cost savings in the future, according to Ryan Stromberg, director of human resources and organizational development.

Legislative changes

The 88th Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its final session in May.

In 2013, legislation passed providing additional funding for districts to offer all-day, everyday kindergarten, starting in 2014-2015.

Spring Lake Park has offered all-day kindergarten as a fee-based program for more than 10 years. Now, the funding will come from the state, requiring budget adjustments.

With additional revenue comes additional expenses, “not just by having a teacher all day versus a half-day,” according to Schultz. “It’s also the supplies that go along with that, as well as furniture and even space.”

Overall, all-day kindergarten will prove to be relatively cost neutral for the district, Schultz said.

Heralded as an “unsession,” the second session of the biennium wasn’t meant to focus on budgetary matters. But some education bills that were passed will have funding implications.

For example, kindergartners that choose to eat breakfast at school can do so free of charge in the fall, thanks to a bill passed in May. The district isn’t quite sure how to budget for the bill since many students will continue to eat breakfast at home, Schultz said.

Food service and community service funds

Both funds are completely balanced heading into 2014-2015.

The food service budget comes in at $2.2 million and community service funding sits just under $2.7 million.

Despite increasing enrollment, the food service budget decreased about 7.5 percent from fiscal year 2014, primarily with the reduction of many à la carte lunch options with new federal guidelines aimed at making mealtimes healthier.

The community service budget increased 2.6 percent, even with the loss of all-day kindergarten programming fees from its accounts.

Non-operating funds

As determined when the property tax levy was set this winter, the debt service and OPEB debt service funds will increase in both revenue and expenses. The fund balances will increase to $2.4 million and $981,025, respectively.

“These are not intended to make money,” Schultz said, but law requires the district to levy 5 percent above principal and interest payments.

Like last year, $100,000 will come in and out of the trust and agency fund to furnish students with scholarships.

Administration, in communication with the board, continues to tweak budgets throughout the year before they are amended for a final time, typically in May or June.

The district also peeks at its future finances. The board has already seen budget projections that extend to the 2018-2019 school year.

“We try not to make a decision one year that makes it more difficult to offer programs in future years,” Schultz said.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]