The St. Michael-Albertville School Board approved a preliminary 2013/14 budget that proposes an almost $400,000 increase to the district’s reserves.
The board also heard an update about a new mental services partnership, and heard an update about plans for an outdoor ice rink on school district-owned land at the STMA Ice Arena.
Board members Doug Birk, Gayle Weber, Carol Steffens, Drew Scherber, Jeanne Holland and Jeff Lindquist approved the 2013/14 preliminary budget.
Supt. Jim Behle said the project total fund balance of $15,382,657 assumes net balance of $383,000 for additional reserves. By board policy, STMA must have 1.5 months of reserves for emergencies and cash flow. He said staff is already planning nearly a $1 million increase in reserves from this year’s budget.
“The increase was planned,” Behle later said. “We’re spreading out voter referendum dollars. In the future, in the legislature doesn’t change the funding formula, at least we have some balance to maintain the programs we have.”
He said the district will continue to build its reserves and spread out the referendum increase over several years “until hopefully the legislatures makes some changes in school funding.”
Behle also noted that last year the federal government mandated school districts to raise lunch prices. For this coming year, he said the federal government is allowing school districts to apply for a lunch increase waiver. Those eligible, such as STMA, are able to operate the food program without needing the increase.
In other news, high school social worker Margo Kaufman updated the board about a partnership being developed in the school district — STMA School Linked Mental Health Services.
She said there is a significant increase in the number of students with mental health diagnosis and concerns, and that the goal is to partner with community-based mental health providers to link students and families to appropriate resources. She said STMA, Wright County mental health services and Solutions Counseling, an area private provider, would form the partnership.
The plan would involved co-locating a therapist in the high school that would have a referral process involving parents. The parents would have the option for their student to receive an evaluation or therapy with Solutions Counseling.
The partnership would be based on two grants that the district has had in the past, meaning no additional cost to the school district.
In further matters, board members Lindquist and Weber updated the board about the hockey arena which is jointly owned by the school district and cities of Albertville and St. Michael. Lindquist and Weber represent the school board on the arena board.
They said the youth hockey association would like to build an outdoor ice rink on the school district-owned land that was designated for future arena expansion.
The board directed Supt. Behle to sit down with the hockey association and work out an agreement. The board also requested a more formal proposal from the hockey association before moving forward.
Behle will also work with legal counsel to develop an agreement after receiving the proposal, which would include a provision that the arena board oversee the outdoor rink.
The rink would allow more time for practices and events, especially youth hockey where parents wouldn’t have to travel to other communities for ice time.
Meanwhile the hockey association is still working toward securing an initial funding goal for a second sheet of arena ice. The outdoor rink would be an interim use until funds are secured for the arena expansion.