Source: Sherman Publications

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Brandon School District amends budget

by Susan Bromley

November 20, 2013

Brandon Twp.- The school board approved at their Nov. 18 meeting an amendment to the 2013-14 budget that includes, for the first time in five years, an operating surplus.

Jan Meek, executive director of business services, said she feels very positive about the surplus, which is expected to be about $140,000 at the end of the fiscal year in June.

"The budget includes some new math curriculum and new buses, so not only do we have an operating surplus, but we will be able to do some things we've had to defer," she said. "We're adding to the district in terms of things that were needed."

The district budgeted for expenditures of $200,000 for new math curriculum; $143,252 for computer network upgrades at the middle school and high school; and an annual payment of $100,000 for new buses.

The surplus is mainly a result of the 7.5 percent wage decrease for teachers and other Brandon Education Association staff this year. The move saved the district roughly $1 million, but was offset by a loss of nearly 197 students. Declining enrollment continues to be a problem and the district is projecting a loss of 150 students for next year based on lower birth rates across the state for the last several years as well as continued migration of families out of the district due to economic reasons.

"At this time next year, we will be in deficit again without major changes," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "The surplus is a temporary reprieve... We hope it can turn around and people will choose to move back here."

She noted that the teachers' wage cut relieves the hit on the fund balance, which is expected to be about $1.7 million, or 6.44 percent, at the end of the fiscal year. However, without more state funding or more students, it will not be enough to keep the district from depleting the fund balance.

Other challenges facing the district, said Meek, include a new K-5 charter school that is planning to open in the area next year, as well as technology refreshments that are expected to cost the district around $1.3 million over the next three years. The district also lacks a sinking fund to pay for building improvements and repairs.

"If we can stabilize enrollment, it will go a long way in helping us to keep a balanced budget and do other things that are needed," said Meek. "We are evaluating the way we deliver instruction to make sure we are as efficient as possible... There is no reason we can't be a top notch district with less students. It's not the end of the world, we'll figure it out."