By STEVE LUND
Brainerd School District
Recently, the Brainerd School Board approved the district’s operating budget for the 2012-13 school year. Approval of the budget simply authorizes the school district to begin fiscal operations for a new year, which begins July 1. There is nothing simple, however, about the budgeting process that charts our financial course for the upcoming year.
This was yet again an interesting year to build the district’s budget. As we communicated since the day we received it, all of the federal stimulus funding is now gone. The funds were spent in accordance with the required parameters and time requirements. Because these were one-time, short-term funds, they certainly presented budgeting challenges, but these challenges were definitely overshadowed by the number of unparalleled opportunities for our students. While the funding was available, we lowered our average class size in kindergarten through grade 4 from 28 to 24 students, we increased the level of after-school activities at Forestview Middle School, and the Building Trades Program was brought back to Brainerd High School.
The funds arrived at a unique time in our district’s financial history. Following the significant budget reductions in 2008, the federal stimulus funds authorized in 2009 were strategically and intentionally dedicated to positively impact classrooms and educational opportunities for our students. But because they were temporary, as these funds have slowly gone away, the result has been reductions.
These recent reductions have not been any easier than previous financial reductions. But the opportunity to make strategic additions to our educational programs and then continuously evaluate all of our expenditures as the funding runs out forces the school district to establish priorities in the annual budget. It challenges us to evaluate every expense decision based on our core mission, organizational values, long-range plan, and most importantly, the direct impact of each expense on our students.
The 2012-13 budget is another example of this continuous priority-based process. In total, we are projecting district revenues to increase approximately 2 percent for next year. Through the strategic budget reductions process and ongoing efforts to hold our costs, we have managed to hold our expenses to nearly the same 2 percent increase. I invite everyone to review our 2012-13 preliminary budget which can be found in the finance section of the District’s website at www.isd181.org. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.
From a financial perspective, I want to thank our community for their support of the increased local operating levy revenue. These additional funds are part of the priority process I just described and have provided us with the opportunity to maintain stability in some of the most significant and impactful programs and staff positions. We will be able to keep our class sizes low, continue be leaders in individualized instruction, target both our struggling learners and our accelerated students, and ensure that students have diverse opportunities for activities outside of the classroom.
From a positive perspective, some of the best ingenuity, creativity, and efficiency can be achieved during times of economic challenges. When I accepted this position with the school district nearly four years ago, I was explaining the job to my father while enlightening him about the challenges our district and all school districts across the state of Minnesota face today. He responded with one simple thing, “Just remember, the measure of your success will never be taken during the good times.”
Steve Lund is director of business services for the Brainerd School District.