By Deb Henton, Ed.D.
North Branch Area Public Schools (NBAPS) is once again facing a budget deficit of $2.1 million. This structural deficit does not exist because the district spends money unwisely or frivolously. It exists because the state is not keeping pace with annual increases in the cost of education, and our enrollment continues to decline.
Taken together, it means that the school district receives less funding each year, and the funding it does receive covers less of the cost to educate a child. The deficit is the difference between what the district needs to continue providing the same level of service next year and the amount of funding it is expected to receive.
The school board took a step in addressing the 2012-13 deficit Thursday when it approved the use of one-time funds to reduce the total deficit from $2.1 million to $1.3 million. The funds include those from the OPEB trust, a drawdown of the fund balance, and staff development funds granted to the school district by legislative waiver.
Unfortunately, since NBAPS has been addressing these annual deficits since 2003-04, very few ways exist to address the deficit without affecting the classroom.
NBAPS has cut activities at the middle school, closed and demolished a building, reduced the school week by one day, slashed administration, and taken myriad other steps to reduce the impact on class size and programs.
Yet, the annual deficits remain and will continue until the state addresses funding inequities, our communities begin to once again grow, or residents approve the use of local tax dollars in the form of an operating levy.
District staff is working now on a recommendation to address the remaining deficit. As always, we will do everything possible to minimize the affect on education. That said, there will be an affect on the classroom, an inevitablity we communicated during levy season.
Input opportunities exist by going to the district homepage (www.northbranch.k12.mn.us). The budget recommendation will be presented to the school board on March 1 and a public hearing is scheduled for March 8.