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With uncertainty as to what the 2020-21 school year will look like when it begins in less than three months, the Bloomington Board of Education is preparing to approve its district budget, knowing at least $3.5 million in budget cuts will be part of the financial strategy.

The board reviewed the budget, as projected, during its June 8 meeting. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the district is unclear, but reductions in expenditures and a projected spend down of the district’s general fund balance are planned for the upcoming fiscal year. As it stands, the district is projecting to spend $1.1 million of its fund balance toward operations for the fiscal year that begins in July. If that figure holds, the fund balance one year from now will be down to 5.3% of annual expenditures, close to the school board’s policy of maintaining a 5% balance, according to Rod Zivkovich, the district’s executive director of finance and support services.

Reducing expenditures and spending down the fund balance is a recurring theme of the district, but this year’s planning has the added uncertainty of the pandemic, which increased and decreased expenditures of the district this spring as a result of students being required to complete their school years at home rather than in the classroom. The budget planning for 2020-21 is based upon business as usual, despite the uncertainty regarding accommodations the district will have to make this fall in response to the pandemic, Zivkovich explained.

The projected general fund revenue for the upcoming fiscal year is $148.1 million, of which 73%, or $108 million, is from the state. Levy revenue accounts for $31.8 million, or 21.5%. Federal revenues account for 2.7%, as do other revenue sources. Federal and other revenues account collectively for about $8.1 million of the district’s annual revenue, according to Zivkovich.

The state revenue formula will provide a 2% increase per pupil, and that will translate to about $500,000 in additional revenue for 2020-21. The increase is less than in recent years, however, as the district’s enrollment has declined about 100 pupils per year during the past two years. In 2017-18, the district’s increase in state revenue added about $2 million to the budget, Zivkovich noted.

Overall, the general fund revenue is projected to increase by approximately $700,000 in the coming year. Expenditures, with budget cuts, are at $149.2 million. Of that, 47.3% is for instructional costs, 25.8% is for special education, and most other categories are at less than 6%. According to Zivkovich.

Food service

The district’s food service program shifted from in-school service to grab-and-go meals, as mandated by the state, during the pandemic. The district lost money as a result, as the meals were provided at no charge and distributed outside of district schools. The end of the school year did not end the food service program, Zivkovich noted. “During the summer, the program is still going,” he said. Meals are available for Bloomington children from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily at Kennedy High School and Valley View Middle School, he noted.

The added expenses associated with distributing the grab-and-go meals this spring added more than $200,000 in expense to the district. It had been projected that the food service operations would require about $50,000 in fund balance revenue to offset operating costs during the past year. The updated figure is estimated at $272,000, according to Zivkovich.

Boardmember Heather Starks asked if state or federal funds will help offset the increased cost of the program. Although there has been discussion, no legislation has been approved to offset the added expense, Zivkovich said.

The budget for 2020-21 does not include price increases for breakfast or lunch. Assuming the district is serving meals in its schools this fall, the food service program is projected to lose approximately $57,000, which would be offset by the fund balance, he explained.

The board’s final review and approval of its 2020-21 budget is scheduled for the June 22 meeting.

Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.

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