The Brainerd School District, which is facing a projected $3 million budget shortfall in the 2005-2006 fiscal year, could receive up to $5.1 million in new funding over the next two years if Gov. Tim Pawlenty's K-12 budget proposal becomes law, the Minnesota Department of Education announced Friday in a news release.
Steve Dickinson, director of business services for Brainerd Schools, said the governor's plan calls for additional revenue that will benefit the district but it's hard to gauge now how much relief actually will be provided to the district.
"That is good news, but how much good news it really is, I wouldn't want to comment on yet until I can do my own analysis of it," said Dickinson.
The state Department of Education, in its analysis of Pawlenty's proposal, found that Brainerd schools could receive $1.1 million or $154 per student over current projected levels in the 2005-2006 school year and $3.2 million or $469 per student over current projected levels in 2006-2007. The increases amount to 6.3 percent over the next two years.
But Dickinson said the state education department is working with projected budget increases while he would have to compare those figures with the district's current revenue and what the district has budgeted for revenues next year to get an accurate picture on how the governor's plan will affect the district. He said this tends to lower the funding percentages projected by the state.
"Nonetheless, it is good news to hear the governor's proposal is a little bit more than what it was a few weeks ago," said Dickinson.
If Brainerd agrees to participate in the governor's performance pay proposal for teachers, the state Department of Education said in a news release that the district will receive additional funding. The governor's QComp: Quality Compensation for Quality Teaching proposal would give Brainerd schools $2.9 million or $422 per student in the 2005-2006 school year and $5.1 million or $743 per student in 2006-2007. The increases with this performance pay plan would amount to 10 percent over the next two years, according to the state department of education.
QComp would replace the "steps and lanes" teacher salary system that is currently in place with a new pay plan that provides performance compensation for teachers.
Dickinson said this type of plan would have to be negotiated with the teachers' union and placed in the teachers' contract, which has yet to be negotiated. He said district officials have spoken informally to union members about how it may be beneficial to the district to enroll in the program. Dickinson said the district already has its nationally recognized Brainerd Teacher Support System that supports beginning teachers, which is mostly likely to qualify the district for increased funding through QComp.
However, Dickinson said it's too early to tell whether the proposal will occur and whether the district will adopt such a plan.
The Brainerd School Board finance committee last week authorized school district administration to create a prioritized list of $2 million in proposed budget reductions for its next meeting March 29. The board Monday also approved a $1 million spend down of the district's unreserved fund balance to help offset any program or staff cuts that would need to be made by July to reduce the budget by $3 million. The unreserved fund balance is estimated to be about $5 million, or 8 percent, as of June 30. Board members have said they don't plan to make $2 million in budget cuts but would like a prioritized list as they await word on how much relief the state Legislature has planned for Minnesota schools. Earlier analysis of Pawlenty's proposals estimated funding increases for Brainerd schools to be about $585,000 or possibly more for the 2005-2006 school year.
For more information on how the governor's education plan affects individual school district, visit the Department of Education Web site at www.education.state.mn.us.
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