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School District 833 budget makes cuts, uses reserves

The District 833 School Board approved the 2013-14 budget, which includes busing and walking changes for some middle school and high school students. Bulletin file photo

The District 833 School Board has set the stage for next year.

The board approved the 2013-14 general fund budget, with no changes, during its June 20 meeting.

The district will be facing a deficit of $2.5 million for next school year, and is balancing the budget with spending reductions and reserve funds. The total revenue for 2013-14 is $172,966,320. Total expenditures are $175,492,648.

The district will have a fund balance of $11,191,768, or roughly 6.6 percent of the general budget.

There was little discuss last week prior to the budget approval, with the exception of board member Katy McElwee-Stevens making a motion to reinstate previous student walking distances.

Earlier this year, the board approved an increase in walking distances to save the district $169,000. Middle school walking distances were increased from 1 mile to 1.5 miles. High schools increased from 1.5 to 2 miles.

McElwee-Stevens said she has heard many concerns from parents over the change, which included: safety in crossing main thoroughfares; cold weather in the winter months; walking in the dark; students being dropped off at school before the buildings open so that parents can make it to work on time; crossing railroad tracks; walking with heavy backpacks; walking in the rain or snow with musical instruments; and students just staying at home because of inclement weather.

McElwee-Stevens' attempt to reduce the walking distances failed.

"I certainly sympathize with those walkers," board member Laurie Johnson said. "But, I'm not sure we're in a position to start taking back cuts we made.

"Also, how do you justify to those folks that have to walk a mile that we don't have to transport them too?"

The budget process began in January, at which time the district was facing a projected $6 million deficit and would only have fund balance of 4.5 percent.

District policy states that each year it should maintain reserves totaling between 5 and 9 percent of the general fund.

The board addressed the budget shortfall by making $1 million in staffing ratio changes, $2 million in service level changes, increasing the walking distance and reducing $375,000 in district support.

Additionally, the Minnesota Legislature increased general education funding by 1.5 percent, which softened the district's deficit.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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