Tiger Talk: A few ins and outs of school finance
The world of school finance is complex and ever-changing. As a public school district we are guided by federal, state and local regulations. There are eight unique funds in the budget here at Pine River-Backus Schools. Now that the process for budgeting the 2014-15 school year has begun, I thought it would be helpful to break down the sources of revenues and expenses for those funds.
First off is the General Fund. This fund accounts for roughly 80 percent of the overall district budget. Revenue to this fund consists of federal funding for Title I and Title II programs, state funding for General Education Aid, Special Education Aid and many other aid categories, and local funding through the levy and miscellaneous fees and donations. State funding accounts for 89 percent of General Fund. Making up the balance is federal funding at 5 percent and local funding at 6 percent. The General Fund expenses are where all educational programming is covered – most staffing, classes, curriculum, athletics/activities, utilities, maintenance, etc.
Next is the Food Service Fund. This fund is self-sustaining in that any money generated by the food service is restricted to being spent in the food service program. Approximately 70 percent of this program is funded through federal and state reimbursement. Expenses cover all food service staff, food costs, supplies and food service equipment purchases.
The Transportation Fund generates most of its revenue through state aid with a small portion coming from fees for field trips and routes outside of the normal to/from busing. Expenses in this fund cover transportation staff, fuel costs, parts/repair costs and bus purchases.
The Community Education Fund receives most of its funding through the local levy and class fees. All revenues and expenses in this fund cover general Community Education classes, Youth Sports, ECFE, School Readiness, Preschool Screening, After School Enrichment, Adult Basic Education, Drivers Education and Behind the Wheel.
Operating Capital is the fifth district fund. All funding for the Operating Capital fund comes from the local levy. The revenue generated is restricted and can be spent only on Operating Capital Projects, which include: facility upgrades, technology upgrades, deferred maintenance projects for annual upkeep, and health and safety projects.
Fund six is Building Construction. This is the fund that covers major building projects — the new bus garage, the new early childhood addition and new athletic addition all completed in January 2013. The proceeds from building bonds, leases or loans are deposited to this fund throughout the construction process to cover construction costs.
When payments are made on the district building bonds, they are funded through the Debt Service Fund. The revenue to make these payments comes directly from the levy, as the building bonds were voter approved through the election process.
Last, but not least, is the Trust/Scholarship Fund. The district awards scholarships to graduating seniors every spring. Upon successful completion of their first semester of college they can claim their scholarships. All funds in these scholarships have been donated to the district and are held in individual accounts with local banks.
As mentioned, budget season has begun. The district, under direction from the school board, will be determining priorities and recommendations to build a balanced budget for 2014-15.