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Pine River-Backus School Board presents revised budget

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The Pine River-Backus School Board on Monday, April 15, heard a presentation by Business Manager Jolene Bengtson on the revised 2012-13 budget.

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Bengtson’s budget presentation provided details about variations between the 2012-13 preliminary budget and the proposed 2012-13 revised budget. The preliminary budget predicted $10,130,812 in revenues, while the revised budget reported $10,114,277, a decrease of $16,535, or 0.2 percent. The preliminary budget predicted expenses amounting to $14,106,507, while the revised budget reported $14,579,122, an increase of $472,615 or 3.4 percent.

The increase in expenses was due primarily to building construction costs, without which the expenses only increased $126,436.

“Revenues for the most part stayed consistent,” Bengtson said. “There are a few swings here and there, but what you’re hoping for is that if revenues are decreasing they are decreasing by a very minimal amount.”

Bengtson said the increases in non-building related expenses primarily resulted from staffing changes. PR-B has added a kindergarten teacher, a math teacher at the ALC, and has seen changes in special education needs and adjusted staff accordingly.

“We’ve also had a number of staff jump on the district health insurance plan and we pay a portion of their premiums,” she said.

Bengtson’s presentation noted a $47,795 increase in state revenues due to literacy incentive aid, which the state finalized after the preliminary budget, and an $88,884 loss in general education aid to the ALC programs due to decreases in enrollment. Also recognized was a $47,464 loss in revenues due to the state’s decision to change from the Homestead Market Value Credit to a Homestead Market Value Exclusion on local property taxes.

The board also saw documentation itemizing a proposal for $447,690 in budget reductions for 2013-14 in categories such as technology, transportation, extracurricular costs, media center, committee meetings and staffing. Some of the largest reductions included a $230,287 reduction by closing the New Beginnings Program alongside retirements, position terminations and reassignment of duties from various positions, and $137,000 reduction by deciding not to purchase any transportation vehicles for 2013-14.

An amount of $2,250 was also proposed to be raised from increasing fees for non-athletic extracurricular activities. Those activities, which include Knowledge Bowl, speech, robotics and theater, currently pay less than athletic extracurricular activities, but incur similar costs due to need for judges and overnight accommodation for traveling students.

Board member Jim Coffland expressed a desire to avoid these increases because they are different from athletics and increases might drive away students. Superintendent Cathy Bettino agreed that the increase was not preferred, but explained that there was a question of fairness because the activities operate at roughly the same cost as athletics, but students pay lower fees. Bettino said the fee increase could be reconsidered in the future if it proved to be a problem.

“What we’re doing here that is different from what we did in the past is we are presenting a balanced budget. We are not projecting deficit spending with this budget. We used to have that kind of latitude,” Bettino said, explaining that uncertainty regarding future changes in state funding and requirements are prompting pre-emptive actions.

Bettino also told the board about a possible expiration of waivers that have been in place for roughly five years that kept the school from needing to set aside 2 percent of state revenues for staff development. If the waivers expire this year and the mandate is not waived or repealed, the school could be required to set aside an additional $100,000 from the general budget.

Bettino is working with teachers to consider options to minimize problems if the waiver expires. It could be done by coding inservice days and professional development days to meet state standards to offset that cost, or by voting to waive the “set aside.” By planning ahead, Bettino thinks the school can prevent further staff reductions in the event that the waiver expires or is not repealed.

In other business Monday, the board:

• Received information from Renata Remington regarding a $5,000 SHIP grant the school will receive for wellness initiatives. The money could be used to improve food offerings for students and increase and improve student fitness classes and activity during recesses. This includes purchasing snowshoes, indoor frisbee golf goals and increasing year-long use of the school forest.

• Learned that PR-B’s Americorp and Reading Corps applications were approved.

• Learned that Teens Leading the Way will be cleaning bathrooms and removing paint at the Dam Park from noon to 4 p.m. May 11. They will also begin painting the bathroom wall and city trash cans May 18-19. Volunteers are welcome.

• Heard information about the program Drive 4 UR School. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27, PR-B will receive money for every test drive taken at participating Ford dealers. The money will benefit six PR-B departments that can earn up to a total of $6,000.

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