Revised Mahtomedi School District budget boosts reserves, refinancing reduces debt costs

/ 13 March 2012 / jennifer

White Bear Press, March 13, 2012 –

MAHTOMEDI — A revised budget projects the Mahtomedi School District will take in nearly 2 percent more revenues this year than earlier expected. Some of the additional funds will cover slightly higher-than-expected staff costs, while the remainder will go into reserves.

The School Board approved updating to the district’s 2011-12 budget last week. The budget was initially approved last June.

General fund revenue was reset at $32.75 million. That’s $517,000 (1.6 percent) more than the first projection, due to higher than expected special education funding and a $50-per-pupil increase in state funding awarded to help districts cover borrowing costs when the Legislature voted to not pay districts 40 percent of what they’re owed until an undetermined later date.

With the additional funds the unreserved general fund balance will grow to $3.94 million — 12 percent of general operating costs. District policy is to keep a balance of 8 percent.

Director of Business Services Denise Sundstrom said the extra funds in reserves will reduce the amount the district will have to borrow to fund operations until the remainder of the state funds is awarded. She said the district likely will have to start borrowing this summer.

With smaller adjustments to revenues and expenditures in the food service and community service funds, both are projected to have balanced budgets at year-end.

The School Board began discussion of the 2012-13 budget at a work session last month. It’s anticipated that $250,000 in cuts will be needed.

Additional action and discussion at the March 8 District 832 School Board meeting included:

• Authorized refinancing of $2.15 million in debt to gain a better interest rate and save the district approximately $175,000 in coming years. The bonds were initially issued in 2003 and 2004 for building projects and are being paid off from tax levy income.

• Approved 2012-13 integration budget of approximately $350,000. The funds support initiatives to improve teacher and student cultural competency and to close the achievement gap. Integration Coordinator Lindsey Olson presented a summary of current-year initiatives, including staff training, parent educational programs, preschool and community education scholarships and cultural community celebrations.

• Lindsey Olson also gave an update on After School All-stars. The growing program provides reading and math interventions and academic enrichment to students selected by teachers. After a snack they receive a half-hour each of math and reading, followed by a half-hour of varying enrichment activities such as cooking, art or recreation. The program is funded by the state.

Winter session enrollment was 94 at Wildwood and 80 at O.H. Anderson, up from 33 and 46 respectively for fall session. A four-week summer session is planned.

• Accepted $1,000 donation to high school wrestling from an anonymous donor.

• An advisor and members of the high school Interact Club gave a summary of their Presidents Day weekend trip with Students Today, Leaders Together. Traveling with students from St. Cloud, the group performed community service and visited colleges.

In Mankato they packed food at Kids Against Hunger and toured Mankato State University. In Des Moines, Iowa they helped build sets and did maintenance projects at a community theater and visited the engineering department at Iowa State University. In Chillicothe, Missouri, they visited with residents at a senior home. In Kansas City they did maintenance projects at a camp for people with special needs.

• Principal Mike Neubeck gave a presentation on extra-curricular offerings at the middle school. Programs include a Young Inventors Club, student newspaper, Six Mix club for new sixth-graders, Yearbook, Student Council, Math Counts Club and Environmental Rescue Club. Annually, there also is two drama productions, eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., four dances and geography and spelling bees. Community Education provides sports offerings that aren’t already offered by community associations; Friday Night Ski Club was especially popular this year.

— Kristine Goodrich