The Brainerd School District, in recent years, has received its share of criticism as it has negotiated its way through the minefield of shaky state funding, protracted employee negotiations and economic uncertainty.
So, let’s give credit to the school board and district administrators for heads-up management when it’s appropriate. News of how the school has managed its finances in these turbulent times merits a pat on the back. About $2.5 million in one-time federal stimulus funds, which the school district has used for about 75 staffing positions, will be exhausted at the end of the school year.
The Brainerd School District faces a $2.4 million budget deficit as we begin this year, with no federal funds expected to bail it out. Fortunately, the school district is as prepared as it can be for this dire situation. It has been using its unreserved fund balance to offset the deficit. That fund balance reached 13.44 percent during the 2009-10 school year and the school district received criticism for maintaining such a high balance. The balance will now drop to a projected 8.9 percent or $7.95 million by June 30.
The wise decision to maintain a healthy reserve fund will give the district a little breathing room as they await the money-strapped Minnesota Legislature’s decisions on state school funding.
Good planning will help take a little bit of the sting out of what will be a challenging year.