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Perham-Dent approves preliminary budget

It looks like it’ll be another year in the red for the Perham-Dent School District, though the district is continuing to climb back into the black.

At its regular meeting, the school board approved a preliminary budget for the 2015 fiscal year with about $16.5 million in expected revenue and close to $17 million in estimated expenditures: leaving a $582,000 deficit.

This is the third consecutive year in which the district will intentionally operate under a deficit with the plan to “spend down part of the unassigned fund balance to increase programming and staffing throughout the district.”

“It’s really a… guess in the dark – there’s a lot of variables that are going to change in the course of the year,” said Superintendent Mitch Anderson of the preliminary budget, which is required to be set by June 30. “It’s really just the starting point for looking at our estimated revenues and expenditures.”

In the general fund, revenues are projected to increase by 5 percent because of a $300 per student levy approved by the board last summer, along with some legislative changes.

The general fund is where the majority of the deficit is based, with a shortfall of about $391,000. The shortfall included salaries for new hires who were recently approved.

Despite the deficit, “the general fund is projected to have a positive fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2015,” said the budget report.

For next fiscal year, Local Optional Revenue will be available for the district “to bring the budget into balance for the next (2015-2016) school year.”

The remainder of the deficit is mostly from various debt service funds, which pay the district’s bonded debt and for post-employment benefits.

Building expenses from the construction of Heart of the Lakes Elementary and Prairie Wind Middle Schools were paid off at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. This year will see the final payment of bonds that funded the Indoor Air Quality Project, and payment on OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) bonds will begin.

The community education fund is expected to have a deficit of about $6,000.

Expenses and revenue in the food service fund are expected to be balanced.

Most of the budget amounts are based on a projected enrollment of 1,313 students in kindergarten through 12th grade throughout the year, a four-student increase from the last day of school.

In other news:

-Playground construction at Heart of the Lakes Elementary is planned for Aug. 4 to 9. Due to equipment that will be used, only adult volunteers are allowed to help.

-The board approved the 2014-2015 Health and Safety Budget, Of the budget, about $99,000 will be used for poured rubber fall protection under the new playground. Board member Jim Rieber proposed directing next year’s funds to a containment door for the middle school, similar to what was recently installed at the elementary school.

-The regular July school board meeting has been moved to July 23 and will begin at 5 p.m. in the Perham High School Student Union.