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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 25 2011

Moorhead School Board approves budget revisions

The Moorhead School Board unanimously ap­proved budget revisions for the 2011 fiscal year Monday and were reminded they’ll need to continue being budget hawks due to state budget woes.

This year’s revenues rose to $50 million from a projected $48.88 million. Expenditures were revised to $50.5 million, leaving a projected deficit of $490,590. That’s improved over the $749,879 deficit projected last June, Assistant Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak said.

Among the revisions are changes in special education aid and how federal stimulus funds are accounted, a carryover in stimulus funds, and federal Education Jobs Fund revenue, he said.

The district will get more than $1.16 million in EduJobs funds this year and next. It used the money to hire the full-time equivalent of five people, Kazmierczak said.

Still, he cautioned the district’s budgets will face challenges, depending on what lawmakers do to erase a $6.2 billion state budget deficit.

Hard cuts to education are possible, he said. One bill proposed a two-year salary freeze for all public school employees, he said.

The district is already dealing with one shift in funding, he said.

By state statute, 90 percent of a school district’s state aid is paid during the year it’s assigned, and the other 10 percent can be shifted to the next year, Kazmierczak said.

But, this year the shift increased to a 70/30 split, forcing the district to borrow $5 million to pay its bills, he said.

Kazmierczak said there are rumblings the state may consider a 50/50 aid shift to balance its books. That could force Moorhead schools to borrow $10 million to $12 million to pay bills and increase interest costs – despite added revenue from the $850 per student operating levy approved in November.

The projected fiscal 2012 budget calls for $53.88 million in revenues and

$53.11 million in expenditures, with a budget surplus of $1.77 million, Kazmierczak said.

The fiscal 2013 budget calls for $54.1 million in revenues and $53.6 million in expenditures, leaving a surplus of $523,182, he said.

Both the 2012 and 2013 budgets assume there will be no increase in state funding, he said.

The board also voted 7-0 to hire a full-time early childhood education teacher for a new Jump Start Early Learning Program.

The program will be targeted at children ages 3 to 5 who have been unable to get into Head Start but could benefit from a preschool program, said Jill Skarvold, director of learner support services.

The program will serve up to 36 children, with up to 14 of them being students with disabilities, she said. Up to 18 students would be taught in morning and afternoon half-day classes at the Early Childhood Center, she said.

The program would start in February. The cost is estimated to be $20,500 for teacher pay and benefits this year, Skarvold said. A special education teacher already on staff would co-teach the classes.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583