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Rumors and reality (01/11/2009)
By Paul Durand
Many rumors have circulated among state officials regarding an anticipated financial shortage, but today, our nastiest suspicions have been realized. In early December 2008 school officials across Minnesota learned of a projected state budget deficit that is estimated to be nearly 5.27 billion dollars. Most of this shortfall comes from a multi-billion-dollar drop in state revenues, a sign of a stressed economy. According to the Minnesota Management and Budget office, the state faces a current budget deficit of $426 million and is predicted to experience a $4.847 billion shortfall in 2010-11 which is about fifteen percent difference between anticipated revenues and expenditures. One of the largest state budget deficits of all time, coupled with what state economist Tom Stinson called “the worst recession since World War II”, will require all stakeholders (community, staff, parents, students, etc.) to work together to effectively solve some of these tough and complex financial issues. It is especially critical that we put aside personal agendas and work toward the common goals of doing what is best for the students of our community.

Fifty-nine percent or $23,278,844 comes directly to the Winona Area Public Schools in general aids from the state of Minnesota; this is down nearly $650,000 from last school year. At the December 11, 2008, school board meeting a resolution directed the administration to, “evaluate the impending financial conditions, project the financial impact for the district, develop appropriate strategies and options, and make recommendations for budget reductions.” Problems of this magnitude require more than just balancing the books, increasing revenues and reducing expenditures, it will take systemic change (both statewide and locally) along with creativity and caring involvement. Like every family or local business during tough financial times, we need to proactively take actions that will ease harmful consequences as we work collaboratively through the difficult times ahead.

As a result of these very tough economic realities, it is anticipated that:

· The state of Minnesota educational funding formulas will not keep pace with increasing educational costs.

· 2009-10 school year projection assumptions

- 0% revenue increase for this fiscal year from the state

- Inflationary expenditure increases of at least 3%

The district administrative team is actively engaged in finding short-term solutions to address our immediate budget shortfalls. We feel by implementing cost savings during this school year there will be significant and beneficial impacts on resources available in 2009-2010 thus averting even deeper future cuts. Our Board of Education and the administrative staff are closely monitoring the situation and will be talking with stakeholders and legislators to develop contingency plans for the 2009-2010 school year. In his book, The Power of 10%, author Eric Harvey writes about how small changes can make a “BIG” difference, and, “the choices we make, the words we say, and the actions we take not only impact our lives, but also the lives of those around us.” Thus, as we sort through the unfortunate financial realities ahead, we will continue to keep in mind the students we serve and will work even more diligently to be strong advocates for public education. 

 

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