The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 17, 2013

Mankato School Board approves preliminary budget

District on solid financial ground

By Amanda Dyslin

---- — MANKATO — As is indicated in the Mankato Area Public Schools preliminary budget summary, a district's general fund balance is one of the key measures providing a snapshot of its financial position.

Once again, Mankato is entering into the next fiscal year on solid ground, with more than one month's expenditures in unassigned general funds. A reserve of one month's expenditures — which district policy mandates — is about $6 million. The estimated June 30, 2014, unassigned general fund balance is $8.7 million.

“All our funds in our budget are in good financial shape at this time,” said Jerry Kolander, director of business affairs, before the School Board voted Monday night to adopt the preliminary budget. “... Currently, we're at a 44-day operating reserve, which is very positive.”

The preliminary budget doesn't include the yet to be determined 2013-14 salaries for teachers, administrators and non-affiliated employees, Kolander said. The salary expenditures have been left at their 2012-13 budget amounts.

The biggest change when the budget is finalized will be enrollment figures, said Supt. Sheri Allen. Enrollment also has been left at its current levels in the preliminary budget.

However, enrollment has been on the rise for years and is projected to increase another 10 percent over the next five years. Per-pupil state funding, which makes up the largest portion of revenue in the budget, is determined by enrollment numbers. So the enrollment count in October is expected to up the general revenue figure.

Without that addition, the total budget summary shows revenues at $88.7 million for 2013-14, up .01 percent from $88.4 million in 2012-13. Total expenditures are down by .01 percent, from $90.1 million in 2012-13 to $89.75 million in 2013-14.

State revenues of $62.5 million make up about 70.5 percent of all funds. Property tax levies make up $14.9 million or 16.8 percent, down about 2 percent from the previous year. And the remaining $11.3 million, or 12.7 percent, comes from other revenue sources.

Of the $89.75 million in expenditures, the largest portion, about $40 million, comes from teacher salaries, Kolander said.

The district ended the 2011-12 school year with the largest undesignated general fund balance since at least 25 years ago when Kolander began in the district: $9.3 million (although Kolander said inflation has to be factored in when comparing previous years' numbers).

The large fund balance had to do with a number of factors, including that year's mild winter, which saved the district about $300,000 in heating costs and snow removal, among other expenses.