The Princeton School Board unanimously passed a 2015-16 school budget at its June 16 meeting after acknowledging that the document will be revised now that the state Legislature passed an education funding bill.
Lawmakers approved a budget bill during a June 12 special session. State law stipulates that district budgets must be set by June 30.
Board Members Eric Minks, Chuck Nagle and Deb Ulm were absent as district business manager Michelle Czech briefed the board on the lawmakers’ action and what it means to Princeton schools. The Legistature increased state aid by 2 percent per student for the current 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years. Czech said how much that dollar amount will be depends largely on enrollment numbers and on the complex formulas used for calculating the per-child amount of aid schools receive.
The percentage from the state should provide an increase of about $110 per student. Princeton’s school-budget deficit sits at about $672,000, and the new funding should reduce it by about $200,000. Czech added that many more details will be known after she attends a June 25 workshop on the bill.
“People have to understand that these are estimates,” she said.
Part of what makes it difficult to estimate the exact dollar amounts is that the district cannot know how many students will be coming through the doors in the fall. She said the budget was conservative and reflected planning for the “worst-case scenarios.”
Board Member and Chair Pro Tem Jeremy Miller asked if the board members wanted to wait on passing the budget until the other board members could be there. He hesitated to do it without the full board, but all the members were aware of the approaching June 30 deadline and the fact that the board would not convene for another regular meeting until July 21.
The members agreed to pass the budget and revisit it after more was known about the education funding bill.
Fee increases might figure in
The School Board held an informational session about potential increases to parking and activity fees. Czech said the two proposals had been or would be considered by the policy, finance and activities committees before the board voted on them, which is likely to happen at the next meeting.
With the exception of middle school fine arts, the possible changes would increase all activity fees by $25 for an estimated total gain of $18,000-$25,000. The board had done activity-fee comparisons among Becker, Big Lake, Cambridge, Elk River, Foley, Milaca and Sauk Rapids to find that Princeton’s fees were aligned with or lower than other districts.
The per-year charges range among schools from $50 a year for middle school fine arts to $250 a year for upper-classman sports. Many schools give a progressively bigger discount for additional children in a family who participate in activities, and nearly all place a cap on the total costs a family could pay in a year. Milaca is the only school with a flat rate for all activities. Czech said the district did quite a bit of research on activity fees before proposing the change.
She said administrators suggested that the district increase high-school parking fees by $25. Current parking fees are $45 and $60 per year, and the high school sells approximately 400 passes per year. The possible parking-fee increase would generate an estimated $8,000-$10,000 per year in additional revenue. The board acknowledged that parking fees have not increased in many years, and Czech said after the meeting that she’s not seen an increase during her four years with the district.
The School Board briefly discussed the proposed increases, with Miller saying he thinks they’re in line with other districts and Johnson saying he thinks $25 is too steep. The members acknowledged that at the next meeting, they’ll review committee comments on the potential fee increases, as well as hear public input about them.