Delano Schools preview 2012-13 budget

The Delano School Board, Monday, May 21, looked at the preliminary 2012-13 budget, which includes a $342,306 general fund deficit that will be covered by reserves.

The board took up other business as well. Here are some meeting highlights.

PRELIMINARY BUDGET

Superintendent of Schools John Sweet and Finance Director Mary Reeder presented the preliminary budget for the board’s review. Since school officials drafted the original document, changes already have been made. The School Board will look over the final document and consider changes before approving it at its regular meeting on June 25.

The preliminary budget shows estimated general fund expenditures of $19,033,615 and estimated revenues of $18,691,309. School district general fund revenue has declined from $19,024,199 in 2010-11 to $18,901,396 in 2011-12 to the $18,691,309 estimated for the coming school year. Meanwhile general fund expenditures were $18,777,966 in 2010-11, the year before Delano Public Schools went into deficit spending. Expenditures were $19,811,494 for this school year, leaving the Delano School District with a $910,078 deficit.

The general fund receives 86 percent of its revenues from state aid, nine percent from local property taxes, one percent from federal sources and four percent from other local and county sources, according to the preliminary budget document.

Delano Schools also has a debt service fund. Estimated expenditures for 2012-13 are $2,228,203 that will be used as partial payment for total bond debt of $22,235,000. The school district sold bonds in 2000 to pay for building additions, in 2008 to pay for facility improvements and energy savings projects and in 2008 to pay for land intended for a new school.

Supt. Sweet commented on the preliminary budget. He based it on an estimated increase in enrollment of 19 students from 2,296 this year to 2,315 in the coming school year. He expected general education revenue to increase by $50 per pupil unit to $5,224.

Sweet also noted that the school operating levy of $426.86 per pupil unit will expire in June, 2013. He said the school board would need to ask voters this November to not only renew the levy but also increase it "in order to continue to operate the educational programs that are now in place."

COLLEGE IN THE SCHOOLS

The School Board held a public hearing concerning a proposal to charge a fee for Delano High School students who take College in the Schools (CIS) classes. After a lengthy discussion, the board decided to charge a $75 registration fee per class. A discount would be given to students who are eligible for reduced activity fees.

During the hearing Stephanie Schreyer, a parent in the district, asked the board to consider advanced students who will not have any other option for a math class once they become juniors. She said it was not fair to charge these students for their achievements.

District resident Barb Janus asked whether the school district had considered the cost savings and benefits of these students, such as low disciplinary issues, high attendance rates and high test scores. All of these bring other students to the district.

Board member Lisa Seguin said the proposal is not a new way to charge fees. It is a way to recoup costs made necessary by failure of the operating levy referendum in November 2011.

Supt. Sweet said he objected to all fees charged to students. Public education should be free. However, of all things for which the district charges, this particular item has value. Students also receive college readiness when taking CIS courses.

In his proposal, he said that for 2012-13, 144 students have registered for a total of 370 CIS classes. Each class, on average, represents four college credits. He estimated the total value of these college credits at $473,000. Estimated cost to the school district is $47,300. If the school district were to charge $75 per class, it would recoup $27,750.

HIGH HONORS QUALIFICATIONS

The School Board approved changes to the Delano High School handbook. One of them raises the grade point average from 3.33 to 3.5 for students to receive a diploma with distinction. The change will be in effect for the class of 2016, next year’s freshmen.

A report on the handbook changes said that 62 students will graduate with a distinction diploma this year. Combining this figure with the number of students receiving a high honors diploma brings to 79 the number of students qualifying for a special diploma. This is roughly half of the class of 165 students.

"Perhaps the criteria should be raised," the report said. "if the GPA requirement were moved to 3.5, 44 students would graduate with distinction. This move would also follow a move in the high honors diploma which changed from 3.5 to 3.67 a year ago."

- Compiled by Susan Van Cleaf

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