By Deb Henton, Ed.D., superintendent—
The 2012-13 budget season began in earnest last Thursday, Jan. 26, at the school board working session. The school district announced at that time a $2.1 million dollar deficit for next year.
Unfortunately, I am not able to report that any significant changes in our situation since last year at this time. The state did produce $50 per pupil for North Branch Area Public Schools but that funding was more than offset by the continuation of declining enrollment. If there is good news, it is that projections show the sustainted enrollment declines the district has faced annually for years may be starting to level off.
The total deficit for next year is $2.1 million and the process of finding reductions has already begun. For the fourth year the administrative team held Budget Boot Camp, a day-long study of district business, although it is not likely to produce the creative solutions and relief it has in past years.
The school board’s first challenge is to determine whether to use roughly $800,000 in one-time funds that are available to offset the deficit. The legislature gave school districts the power to capture and use staff development funds for two years, and the district has Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) funds that are available as well. It is expected the school board will provide direction regarding these funds at the Feb. 9 school board meeting.
The budget recommendation is scheduled to be brought before the school board on March 1 and a public meeting will be held on March 8, at 6 p.m. in room 126 of the North Branch Area Education Center.
Please monitor the district website (www.northbranch.k12.mn.us) for budget information and important dates as they become available. The 2012-13 budget website is up and running, and the school district is accepting input in a variety of ways. See the budget fact sheet for more information.