By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN Hypothetical scenarios and uncertain numbers are making budget-setting for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District a bit tricky this year.
At a work session meeting Monday, the school board pondered possibilities in regards to state aid reductions, enrollment projections, and additional revenue generators.
The budget committee plans to further discuss the issue and bring a recommendation to the school board at the Monday, April 12 meeting.
The board is preparing for a 2 percent decrease in state aid as the most likely scenario.
“That’s hoping we can get by at that level, and not worse than that,” financial consultant Todd Netzke said.
“It doesn’t look like the state is going to be very generous,” board member Dan Schaible said.
In order to increase revenue, the district is hoping to lease some of the extra space at the middle school to the Meeker and Wright Special Education Cooperative (MAWSECO).
Two of MAWSECO’s programs, Journeys and STEP, are already at the middle school.
Enrollment numbers will also play a significant role in how the district’s finances shake out in the upcoming years.
If the district grows by 10 students next year, gains revenue from MAWSECO and an alternative learning program, increases contracts by 1 percent, has a 2 percent inflation increase for expenses, and adds $50,000 in programs, the school will need to make $113,000 in reductions.
However, if state aid is also cut by 2 percent, that will bring the needed reduction amount to $233,000.
Higher enrollment projections would substantially boost HLWW’s financial situation.
Babies born in the HLWW Zip code can also be used to predict enrollment.
Using the lowest average Zip code count, the school’s enrollment increase would generate enough revenue that the school wouldn’t have to make any reductions, assuming that all the previously listed factors stay constant.
If state aid were reduced by 2 percent in this scenario, the amount of reduction would be $120,000.
These numbers are based on keeping a $360,000 fund balance, which is about 4.45 percent of the school’s total budget, Netzke said.
“Is that still a target we want to keep?” Superintendent Brad Sellner asked. “The fund balance is there for when times get tough. Is this a tough time?”
“Nobody is saying we have to have a fund balance,” Schaible said. “We do it for backup.”
Cuts and additions
To help the board see what cuts or additions could be made, Sellner drafted a “proposed reduction” list.
“These are just possibilities,” Sellner said. “They are not set in stone.”
A few of the reduction items included a reduction in business office staff, financial consulting services, and a total of $36,000 in reductions to the high school, middle school, and elementary schools.
Other possibilities included not replacing a special education teacher at the middle school, and keeping $30,000 of staff development dollars in the general fund.
Revenues would include an alternative learning program and the lease through MAWSECO.
As for additions, the school might consider adding 58 more paraprofessional hours per week in the health department.
“This would allow us to look at reducing our McLeod County nursing services,” Sellner said.
Hiring a fifth grade teacher is another consideration. Currently, the fifth and sixth graders share teachers. With a three-section fifth grade class coming up next year, Sellner said it might be wise to hire a separate teacher.
Another addition possibility is an extra bus driver. Currently, the first student is picked up at 6:35 a.m. With another driver, the start time could move to 6:55 a.m., Sellner said.
All of the potential reductions, revenues, and additions are still “up in the air,” Schaible said.
“We don’t know what the state’s going to do,” he said.
The board also discussed the $100 per pupil unit levy that is expiring soon.
The levy amounts to $19 for a $100,000 house, Netzke said.
“Next year is our last chance to put it out as a continuing levy,” Schaible said.
The board talked about possibly having the levy renewal on the ballot in the fall with the elections, but decided against the idea.
“We just put one out last year, do we want to do another one this year?” board member Paul Weibel asked.
“My personal thought would be ‘no,’” Schaible said.
Having the levy renewal at the same time as the election would be less expensive for the district, however, because of the cost of voting equipment, board members said.
“It’s beneficial to take a year off,” board member Jesse Tintes said.
“I think the negative is just the PR,” board member Jamie Weich added.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• heard that the school-aged daycare program only has two or three children in the morning. “It’s just the economy,” Sellner said. “People are at home.”
• heard from Elementary Principal Jennifer Olson that more people than usual came to kindergarten registration, with 70 walk-through sign-ups. “Typically, we have 40 or 50,” she said.