Weather Forecast


School board gets good budget news

After two years of big budget adjustments, District 196 School Board members got some good news about their financial future this week.

At a retreat Monday that took the place of their regular meeting, board members reviewed a five-year budget forecast that for the first time in at least two years doesn't call for immediate cuts. Even the most pessimistic of the four scenarios presented Monday doesn't require cuts for two years, and those cuts would total just $1.5 million

That's a far cry from the $15.5 million in adjustments the board was talking about two years ago at this time, or the $14.3 million they discussed last January.

Finance director Jeff Solomon said the district is in good shape this year in part because it made those earlier cuts and in part because Minnesota school districts received a 1 percent increase in state funding this year and will receive another 1 percent increase next year. Those increases were not in the projections the board looked at last January.

After hearing Solomon's presentation Monday board members chose to proceed with one of two moderate forecasts Solomon put forward. Each of those forecasts included steady state funding and moderate salary increases for district employees. One factored in a possible levy referendum, but the board chose the one that did not.

Solomon said he does not expect the board to seek new funding from a referendum in the immediate future.

A pessimistic forecast presented Monday included a 1 percent cut in state funding. A more optimistic look included a 1 percent increase.

The board followed the recommendation of its budget advisory council in selecting one of the moderate forecasts.

The forecast board members chose to work with projects a need for $33.3 million in budget adjustments in the 2014-15 school year, but Solomon wasn't particularly concerned about those this week. The district has a history of performing better than its budget projections. Halfway through the current budget year the district is on pace to finish $9 million ahead of projections.