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District 833 approves 2013-14 budget

The District 833 School Board has set the stage for next year.

The board approved the 2013-14 general fund budget, with no changes, during its June 20 meeting.

The district will be facing a deficit of $2.5 million for the next school year, and is balancing the budget with spending reductions and reserve funds. The total revenue for 2013-14 is $172,966,320. Total expenditures are $175,492,648.

The district will have a fund balance of $11,191,768, or roughly 6.6 percent of the general budget.

There was little discussion last week prior to the budget approval, with the exception of School Board Member Katy McElwee-Stevens making a motion to reinstate previous student walking distances.

Earlier this year, the board approved an increase in walking distances to save the district $169,000. Middle school walking distances were increased from 1 mile to 1.5 miles. High schools increased from 1.5 to 2 miles.

McElwee-Stevens said she has heard many concerns from parents over the change, which included: safety in crossing main thoroughfares; cold weather in the winter months; walking in the dark; students being dropped off at school before the buildings open so that parents can make it to work on time; crossing railroad tracks; walking with heavy backpacks; walking in the rain or snow with musical instruments; and students just staying at home because of inclement weather.

McElwee-Stevens’ attempt to reduce the walking distances failed.

“I certainly sympathize with those walkers,” School Board Member Laurie Johnson said. “But, I’m not sure we’re in a position to start taking back cuts we made.

“Also, how do you justify to those folks that have to walk a mile that we don’t have to transport them too?”

The budget process began in January, at which time the district was facing a projected $6 million deficit and would only have a fund balance of 4.5 percent.

District policy states that each year it should maintain reserves totaling between 5 and 9 percent of the general fund.

The board addressed the budget shortfall by making $1 million in staffing ratio changes, $2 million in service level changes, increasing the walking distance and reducing $375,000 in district support.

Additionally, the Minnesota Legislature increased general education funding by 1.5 percent, which softened the district’s deficit.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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