While other municipalities are looking at the end of the calendar year and planning out the next year’s budget, the school districts are only midway through its budget year. The Stillwater Area School Board discovered that its financial position is better than planned during a mid-school year budget update during its Dec. 12 meeting.

When the district begins its budgeting process for the school year, it begins in May - often lacking key funding information such as final state legislation impacts, actual October 1 enrollment and other information. With all of that specific information accounted for, the district has a clearer idea of its actual revenues.

“The legislative session was complete until the end of May and in June,” said Kristen Hoheisel, director of finance. “By then we had already approved our preliminary budget.”

In a change from the preliminary budget, the district has increased its revenues by $2,440,056 dollars. This additional funding, Hoheisel said, comes from additional state aid for special education and pupil units and grants for safe schools. Along with this increase in revenue, the district increased its expenditures by $515,032. Overall, the district’s general fund operating revenues are $113,975,831 and operating expenditures of $113,479,468.

A few years ago, the board developed a policy to ensure that the district kept an unassigned fund balance - essentially an emergency fund - of 5% of its operating balance. This year, the unassigned fund balance is $9.6 million or 8.47% of its operating fund.

Board member Shelley Pearson asked Hoheisel to clarify what the additional money in the unassigned fund balance meant for a balanced budget. Hoheisel said that the goal for a balanced budget was to have expenditures less than revenue, and that the unassigned fund balance provides protection for the ebb and flow of costs throughout the years.

“It’s one-time money, so if you do plan to spend it, make sure that it is used for a one-time cost and that you have a way to replenish it,” Hoheisel said.

The budget does not include any increases that would come from increases to the open contracts with district employees beyond seniority increases. If the board does settle these open contracts in the current budget year, the board would have to approve an additional budget in the spring.

Contact Alicia Lebens at alicia.lebens@ecm-inc.com

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