Dist. 877 expects ‘break even’ budget year

The Buffalo School Board approved the preliminary 2012-13 budget that staff said would be a “break even” year.

The board also heard that activity fees would be raised to offset costs,


Director of Finance and Operations Gary Kawlewski reminded the Dist. 877 board that a district’s budget is people and programs, which translates to 80 percent of the budget going to salaries and benefits.

It’s projected the general fund revenues and expenses will be just over $53 million each, creating a “break even” year. The estimated unassigned fund balance will be about $8.6 million or 16.2 percent of the budget. This is slightly over the school board’s policy to maintain an eight to 12 percent fund balance.

District Controller Tina Burkholder said the increase is a result of a variety of cost saving measures.

“It’s been a difficult process to achieve some financial stability for the last couple of years in the district,” recounts Burkholder. “We’ve endured a wage freeze, two years of budget reductions and a host of cost containment factors that have attributed to our healthy budget. However, we will spend down our fund balance (reserves), at least $1 million for the 2013-14 school year. Spending down the healthy fund balance will prevent any immediate budget reductions as future year expenses will likely exceed having enough revenues to maintain our operations.”

They also shared other factors that will affect the budget such as the one percent general aid increase (which means just over $300,000 for Dist. 877 Schools), the student enrollment projections (approximately 5,738 students) with current district levy referendums of $110 and $379 per student, new literacy aid revenue, OPEB contributions begin, and the Federal Ed Jobs Bill expires after 2011-12.

Kawlewski and Burkholder also touched on revenue increases in other budgets such as Food Service’s five cent price increase in meal tickets, the addition of Little KidKare in Montrose (Community Education sponsored child care), and nine sections of All-Day, Every Day Kindergarten (an increase of three sections district-wide).



In other news, at previous board meetings, dating back to February 2012, the board discussed the feasibility of long-term sustainability of self-funded activities (activities that were previously supported by the district).

Self-supported activities are difficult to track and hold accountable for timely revenue recording. Boys swimming and diving has been a self-funded for the past three years. Each boy’s sport is paired with a girl’s sport per Title IX requirements. Boys swimming and diving is paired with Nordic Ski (also self-funded). However, the participation level and fundraising difficulties pose a problem for the Nordic Ski program. Therefore, it’s recommended that boys swimming and diving be paired with girls dance team. Both of these programs are strong in the Mississippi 8 Conference and look to have a long life.

To help offset some of the costs of adding back the programs, activity participation fees will be increased by $10, gate fees (including the family activity pass) could be increased by $25 (from $125 to $150) to keep up with the Mississippi 8 Conference average, and a donation of $10,000 will be made by the boys swim team.

Buffalo High School Activities Director Tom Bauman publicly thanked the board for their support and to everyone who participated in the annual Bison Open Golf tournament that raised about $5,000 for student activities. The funds go to help pay fees for those who can’t afford it.

In other news, the board:

APPROVED the 2012 School District Census, with a total population of 31,857. The board approves an updated district census population annually and must be approved and updated with the Minnesota State Demographers office by July 1 each year. This is an increase of 101 people from the 2010 report. The district has not increased the census population since 2008.