Grand Forks schools expect budget gapGrand Forks Public Schools’ preliminary budget estimates for the 2012-2013 school year find the district may be short by nearly $6 million, according to district officials Monday.
By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald
Grand Forks Public Schools’ preliminary budget estimates for the 2012-2013 school year find the district may be short by nearly $6 million, according to district officials Monday.
Salaries, dwindling federal funds and the district’s contribution to retirements and health insurance contributed to the shortfall, which would be the largest the district has confronted since at least 2007.
Superintendent Larry Nybladh told the School Board there are only a few actions a school district can take when faced with overspending: continue deficit spending, cut expenditures, increase revenue or some combination of all three.
He hopes the board can cut what it can without sacrificing staff, who are already spread thin throughout the district.
Shortfall next year
The general fund budget for 2013-2014 is also expected to be short by about $4.4 million, in part because of decreased federal funding and a 3 percent increase in salaries and salary-related items. To offset this, the district so far plans to cut its textbook budget in half, saving about $500,000, and not buy new ones.
Legislative changes next year that alter the funding formula for schools and lower district levies statewide will also affect this budget, but these projections were not included in the district’s estimates. Some language wasn’t clear in the legislation, and an emergency meeting between school officials and the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction will be held in a few weeks to clarify the new funding formula, said Nybladh.
The Grand Forks district is one of three in the state that has unlimited mill levy authority, so it is not required to reduce its levy as other districts are. However, district Business Manager Vicky Schwartz said they followed the state’s suggestion to reduce their levy by 60 mills in their estimates.
If the district set its mill levy at 70 mills it would generate $1.36 million, and 80 mills would generate $2.7 million, “which would go a long way in closing that (funding) gap,” Nybladh said, adding that discussions of mill increases are only preliminary.
Declining federal funding has had a significant effect on the budget, said Schwartz.
Impact Aid, federal funding meant to support students from military families, is budgeted at $2.5 million for the 2013-2014 school year. Funding for the program itself has also been trimmed, and because of this fact — as well as the decline in student enrollment on the Grand Forks Air Force Base — the district this year received $2.2 million, or about half of what it expected.
The district also spent the last of its funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which also contributed to this year’s shortfall, said Schwartz.
Increased student enrollment has also played a role in the district’s deficit. The school district gained 225 students this year but won't receive additional funding for the increase, as the current funding formula pays schools based on enrollment numbers from the previous year only.
If the state had funded the increase, that would have meant an additional $1.7 million this year, said Schwartz.
Nybladh and Schwartz emphasized the budget figures are preliminary.
“When predicting future spending, we make several assumptions and we make them based on the best information we have at the time,” she said. “I ask that you keep that in mind.”
Call Johnson at (701) 787-6736; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1736; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.