A District 861 committee composed of administrators and staff members has been working on a proposal that would identify where the district should cut $500,000 from the 2013-2014 budget. Those recommendations are expected to be presented to school board members at the January 24 meeting, and the public will have the chance to provide feedback on the proposal during a public forum set for January 31.
The board must cut $500,000 for the next school year, $700,000 for 2014-2015, and $450,000 for 2015-2016. This year, the district is spending about $1.1 million in reserve dollars to help balance the budget, and next year, it will spend about $1.15 million in reserves along with making the budget cuts. However, the board has a goal: to keep at least 16.6 percent of annual expenses in that reserve account. By the end of the 2013-2014 school year, the reserves will be close to that minimum balance--about 18.15 percent of expenditures.
District 861 won’t be able to continue the trend of spending down reserves much longer, and school officials have talked about attempting to pass a property tax referendum in 2016. Superintendent Scott Hannon said the board is expected to take a final vote on the budget reductions on February 21, 2013.
Property tax levy
The District 861 School Board recently approved the 2013-2014 property tax levy of $11.16 million, approximately eight percent lower than last year’s figure. Unlike cities and counties, school districts in Minnesota may not increase or decrease property tax levies in any way leaders choose. The Minnesota Department of Education, using a complex formula that relates in part to enrollment, informs districts how much they may levy.
The decrease is related to declining enrollment, as well as loans that were refinanced in 2012.