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Leadership, budget changes ahead for South Washington County Community Education

No fee increases or major changes in District 833 Community Education-run programs and classes are expected in the next year, but there will be changes to how the department is managed.

Superintendent Keith Jacobus said last week that District 833 is currently interviewing candidates for the community education director's position after longtime director Ernie Pines resigned "for personal reasons" in late February. Jacobus discussed the issue during the District 833 School Board's Thursday review of the department's 2013-14 budget proposal.

A group of community education experts has been engaged by the district to review all of its programs and services, according to Jacobus and Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent for elementary education, who has been working on the budget with district Finance Director Aaron Bushberger.

The panel will also be interviewing staff members and people connected with community education programs with a final report and recommendations due in June in time to "springboard" the new director.

Fee structures are also being studied and compared with other similar school districts.

The board traditionally reviews the community education budget in April or May, after the department has set its fees for the year. Moving forward, Bernhardson said, the board will review the community education budget before the department sets class and program fees. Community education oversees a variety of youth and adult programs.

Community education receives tax levies for early childhood, adult basic and general community education from the state, but 76 percent of the revenue comes from user fees, Bushberger said.

There is also a major change proposed for the department budget and its reserve fund.

The board's policy is to have 5 to 9 percent of the general fund budget on hand to cover one month's operations in case of an emergency.

Last year's district audit showed a 16.2 percent community education fund balance of $1.8 million. District administrators said that is being reduced to 5 percent, or $607,891, to cover a $593,274 deficit in the department's annual budget.

The department's projected revenue for 2013-14 is $11.62 million with expenses expected to be $12.20 million.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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