By Deb Henton, Ed.D.
At the Thursday, Feb. 9 school board meeting, school district staff were asked to articulate the budget strategy used by the school district. It is an excellent question with an answer many are likely not aware of.
Creating a budget recommendation does not happen in a vacuum or without guidance. There is absolutely nothing random about it and all areas of district expenditures are scrutinized and viewed strategically by many individuals. After so many years of repeating this difficult process, the staff charged with creating the recommendation are experts at examining budgets through a fresh lens each year.
Of course, operating levy results play a part in our strategy. The school district is very transparent about what areas will require scrutiny in the absence of an operating levy. We also use the strategic plan – constructed with a great deal of community input – as a guide.
In real terms, the strategy used by the school district is very simple: minimize impact on students, preserve educational opportunities, mitigate impact of budget cuts on class sizes, maximize efficiency in all areas, and
preserve the school district’s ability to compete with surrounding districts. Enrollment projections drive the discussion about staffing levels in each grade level and building.
When we come to the school board on March 1 with a recommendation to deal with the deficit, you can be rest assured that all areas of district business have been analyzed, and a variety of options considered against these strategies. The end product will be the school district’s best solution for responsible oversight of our finances with respect to the strategies mentioned above.
Please stay tuned to the school district Web site (www.northbranch.k12.mn.us) for budget recommendation information. There are opportunities to provide input either from your home or at a public hearing, which is scheduled for March 8, at 6 p.m. in room 126 of the North Branch Area Education Center.