Balanced budget without cuts expected in District 196

/ 12 June 2012 / jennifer

Jessica Harper, MN Sun ThisWeek, June 12, 2012 –

For the first time in three years, the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District will be able to balance its budget without reductions.

“It’s so exciting to me that we are not cutting and that we are performing better than in previous years,” Board Member Jackie Magnuson said.

Officials estimate that the District 196 general fund budget will be $294.8 million during the 2012-13 school year. This budget accounts for funds not allocated for specific purposes, such as special education or food service.

Expenditures are slightly above that figure, but the school district can use general funds to balance the budget.

The general fund balance is a projected $33.2 million, 11.03 percent of the general fund budget. This is above the district’s 8 percent goal.

The district’s total budget is projected to be $343.1 million.

Jeff Solomon, finance director for District 196, credits the balanced budget to the state’s efforts to reinstate K-12 funding and the district’s efforts to conserve its money.

The state promised the district in July an extra $50 per pupil this school year and another $50 per pupil in 2012-13.

This amounts to $1.5 million each year in additional revenue.

District 196 also will receive $2.96 million in compensatory funding starting in 2012-13.

Legislators passed the one-time money for 20 districts with the largest enrollment aside from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.

District 196 is expected to receive the largest sum of this money.

The district also expects to receive $1.63 million in literacy aid for 2012-13. The aid is based on literacy achievement of third- and fourth-graders.

This additional aid enabled District 196 to avoid seeking a new operating levy referendum.

The recent news is a much needed silver lining for the embattled school district, which faced deep cuts the past three years.

Last year, District 196 was forced to lay off 107 teachers — both tenured and nontenured — as it sought to slash $3.5 million from the 2011-12 budget.

Many of the layoffs of tenured teachers had more to do with changes at the middle school level than its budget constraints, said Tom Pederstuen, director of human resources in District 196.

In January 2011, the School Board unanimously approved shortening its middle school schedule to six periods in an effort to boost student achievement, particularly in math, and save money.

Eliminating two class periods is expected to save an estimated $1.76 million each year.

In addition to cuts, the district looked to borrowing as a way to balance the books. The School Board approved opening a line of credit last summer and a $15 million aid anticipation loan.

This was the first time the district opened a line of credit.

State statute allows school districts to borrow up to 95 percent of their average monthly expenses.

For District 196, this is $24 million.