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Pine River-Backus School Board approves preliminary budget

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The Pine River-Backus (PR-B) School Board approved a preliminary budget Monday, June 16, which the board had reviewed at a June 9 special meeting.

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Business Manager Jolene Bengtson said some of the most significant differences between the previous budget and the preliminary budget related to staff changes and local and state contributions to revenue.

According to the preliminary budget, general fund revenue is up 3.8 percent or $309,240. This is largely due to a 45.8 percent (or $173,142) increase in local revenues and a 3.2 percent (or $186,285) increase in state revenues. Federal revenues did decrease by 12.7 percent (or $52,316).

According to notes in the budget, local revenue increases are largely due to the board approved $300 per pupil unit operating levy. In turn, by approving a $300 per pupil unit operating levy, the school also qualified for partially matching state revenues.

General fund expenses also increased by .7 percent (or $55,137) overall.

"Most of the changes are staffing related. We had a lot of staff movement between buildings, and we had some retirements," Bengtson said.

A close look at the budget reveals an increase in elementary expenses of $191,246, though Bengtson points out this coincides with a reduction in expenses in the high school by $27,593. This is because staff moved from the high school to the elementary and vice versa, meaning the changes were partially a transfer of expenses from one area to another rather than new expenses.

"The number for the elementary is a little misleading just because we moved some of the more senior staff from the high school into elementary positions and moved some of the newer staff to high school positions. It's kind of misleading that high school expenses went down and elementary expenses go up," Bengtson said.

Bengtson explained that the elementary gained two teaching positions, one in regular education and one in special education.

Additional notes for the general fund further explains that 2013-15 contract settlements with the district staff resulted in a total increase of $99,142 in salary and benefit expenses across the general, food service, transportation and community education funds. Among these expenses, $58,614 was due to an increase in the district's contribution to the employee health plan.

Overall, a $650,851(6.3 percent) increase in revenue, and a $187,089 (1.7 percent) increase in expenses were recorded in the preliminary budget.

In other business Monday, the board:

• Set activity participation fees, athletic admission fees and meal prices for the 2014-15 school year as recommended.

• Denied a grievance of the Pine River-Backus Education Minnesota Grievance 14-1.

• Set building usage fees for 2014-15.

• Awarded a contracts for: milk and related products to Aitkin Dairy, diesel to Northern Star Co-op, bread and related products to Bimbo Bakeries, trash collection services to Waste Partners, and propane to Ferrellgas for July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.

• Accepted the resignations of Jason Roepke, high school social studies teacher and softball coach, effective at the end of the 2013-14 school year, and authorized posting for a replacement; early childhood special education teacher Aline Gilb effective July 31, and authorized posting for a replacement; paraprofessional Charles Weaver effective July 1; and elementary teacher Marcy Miller effective immediately, and authorized posting for a replacement.

• Approved hiring Sarah Johnson and Dawn Snook as special education teachers, Kim Norman as .4 FTE early childhood and parent education teacher; and Joshua Hirschey as social studies teacher for the 2014-15 school year.

• Approved hiring Gregg Ehlert as boys' cross country coach, John Riewer as girls' cross country coach, Tom Demars as varsity football coach, Mike Dinnel and Rob Johnson as assistant football coaches, Travis Hoffarth as junior high football coach, Terry Holden as football scout, Joshua Hirschey as varsity volleyball coach, and Kay Sawyer as junior high volleyball coach for the 2014 fall season.

• Approved a 2014-16 contract with elementary Principal Richard Aulie.

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