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Perham-Dent deficit could be higher than expected

The Perham-Dent School Board has approved a revised budget that increases the district's deficit by $371,500 more than originally anticipated.

The new 2012-13 budget was unanimously approved at a school board meeting last week, after some discussion. This version, revised from a preliminary budget passed earlier, shows an estimated decrease in revenue and increase in expenditures.

The difference is mainly due to lower-than-expected enrollment and higher-than-expected technology costs.

Lower enrollment has decreased originally budgeted revenues by $196,000, which is connected to roughly 35 students. Meanwhile, unforeseen technology-related expenses have increased expenditures by an estimated $142,000.

In all, the budget has $12.6 million dollars coming in and $13.8 million going out, leaving the budget with a $1.2 million deficit, up from the preliminary budget deficit of $781,900.

At the end of last year, the school board approved spending down the district's operating capital in order to begin implementing iPads at the schools, planning to pay that back as funds from the recently approved Capital Projects Levy start flowing in.

One of the bigger previously unbudgeted technology expenses is $55,000 for iPad cases, of which $40,000 was spent on the 490 original cases and an additional $15,000 on replacements for 200 damaged cases.

Administration explained at the meeting that although the middle and elementary schools are able to utilize cheaper, sturdier cases without keyboards, high school students need keyboards for their laptop-like capabilities.

"We just feel like this is a feature we can't do without," Superintendent Mitch Anderson said.

Unfortunately, "The cases aren't made that well," according to high school principal Ehren Zimmerman.

Many times, the school has seen a case's Bluetooth option quit working. The company, CRUX, guarantees the cases for only 90 days; after that, the school is responsible for purchasing replacements.

Board member Sue Huebsh said, "Maybe we still have grounds to argue with the company further. It depends on the percentage that are failing, but we should fight this."

In a follow-up interview, Anderson said, "We are pursuing a rebate for the defective keyboard cases."

Another $86,000 in unexpected technology purchases was spent on additional iPads, access points for WiFi, software, firewalls, licensing and apps - all items needed to successfully kick off the iENGAGE project, according to administrators.

The other large expenditure was an additional $55,000 for salary and staffing changes.

"These are just estimates," Anderson stated in an email. "Enrollment may increase as the year goes on and expenses may be under budget in other areas."

The school board also held its annual reorganizational meeting this month. Newly elected seats are as follows: Chairperson, Myron Roe; Vice-Chairperson, Sue Huebsch; Clerk, Jim Rieber; and Treasurer, Sue Von Ruden.

Committee assignments for school board members were also given.

Teacher negotiations committee: Rieber, Von Ruden and Roe.

Support staff and non-union staff negotiations committee:  Huebsch, Mike Hamann and Cyndy Huber.

Transportation committee: Rieber, Hamann and Vincent Pankonin.

PACC committee: Rieber, Roe and Pankonin.

Technology committee: Rieber and Huebsch.

Facilities committee: Huebsch, Hamann and Huber.

Food Service committee: Rieber and Von Ruden.

Lakes Country Service Co-op: Huber, Roe and Rieber.