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District 833 budget up 1 percent

The District 833 School Board is expected to approve $155.7 million in spending for South Washington County Schools in 2012-13 and use $3 million in reserve funds to balance the budget.

The board also proposes to cut $1.2 million from the budget and is not making an annual $2.5 million contribution to a fund that pays retiree benefits because it already is fully funded.

The district's reserve account would be at $11.2 million heading into 2013-14, still trending down but slowing somewhat from previous years when more reserve dollars were used to balance the budget.

Although last year's budget was based on no increase in enrollment, 174 new students enrolled last fall. Based on a slightly less than 1-percent enrollment increase, the 2012-13 budget estimates another 1-percent increase, according to Aaron Bushberger, district finance director.

While the Legislature has not increased education funding for inflation, Bushberger told the board at the workshop meeting last week that there is an increase of $50 per student for next year for a net gain of $1 million in funding to District 833, which raises the funding per student to $5,224.

New funding of $1 million will be used, by direction of the Legislature, to target third- and fourth-grade literacy.

The district also receives additional money to operate schools from past referendums and one referendum, which raises $3.4 million annually, or an average resident tax levy of $164.38, is up for renewal in November of 2013.

By legislative directive, local levies can't continue indefinitely without voter approval.

The board could opt to ask voters to renew it this fall, but the consensus of board members at last week's meeting was to put off an election until next fall.

Without additional state funding, the district will face additional deficit funding for the 2013-2014 school year.

Also, board member Jim Gelbmann said $2.5 million in annual state funding for integration programs is precarious. An advisory report to the Legislature on suggestions for reallocating the money did not get a hearing, Gelbmann said. Though the funding is set for the coming year, funding for the following year is uncertain and may not be known until after the district's deadline to set the 2013-2014 school district budget.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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