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Our View: 833 officials should use excess money to focus on needs

If you received a $1,000 windfall at a time when you were doing well financially, you'd probably spend it a lot differently than if you got it at a time when you were struggling.

If times were good, maybe it would go toward a vacation or gadget. And if times were tough, you'd probably use it for necessities like food or housing, or save it for an emergency.

School District 833 is trying to decide what to do with its own windfall -- $5 million left over from the 2006 construction referendum. With the state budget precariously situated, now is the time to save, not splurge.

To balance the state's budget Gov. Tim Pawlenty decided to delay payments to school districts that were due to be paid this past July. District 833 used budget reserves to cover the $18 million that went unpaid. It's unclear when the state will pay that money back, however when the state delayed payments to schools in 1983, it took 15 years to pay all the money back, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

News about the state budget is only getting worse, with a projected $1.2 billion shortfall in the current budget, and a projected $5.4 billion deficit for the 2012 and 2013 budget.

With K-12 education making up about 30 percent of the state budget, state funding cuts are likely.

School board members could definitely be forced to ask for more money from taxpayers, make budget cuts or do both.

The money should only be spent on needs (like roof replacements) that will prevent future expenses and not wants (like kilns in elementary schools) or saved so it's available when needs arrive.