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Enrollment jumps help bottom line in Willmar, Minn., School District

WILLMAR — Rising enrollment has boosted budget projections for the Willmar School District.

The district expects to receive more than $700,000 in additional per-student revenue because of the additional students.

The School Board approved a revised 2012-13 budget at its meeting Monday. The budget revision projects revenue of $44.2 million and expenditures of $44.8 million in the general fund, which pays day-to-day operating expenses.

The revision reflects new information received since the budget was first approved in June 2012. School districts are required to approve budgets each June, before the fiscal year begins on July 1. However, many funding decisions are made after that date, so it’s common for districts to revise their budgets midway through the school year.

The enrollment projection for the school year was originally 3,995 average daily enrollment. The new projection is 4,123 students, 100 more than last year’s average.

“Enrollment has been incredible this year,” said Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington.

Usually, the enrollment on opening day is the highest of the school year, she said, but this year, “it just continues to climb.”

The budget revision also includes nearly $130,000 in community donations to provide iPad tablet computers to juniors and seniors at Willmar Senior High and more than $950,000 in federal revenue. The federal funding includes a $500,000 School Improvement Grant for Kennedy Elementary.

In all, revenue increased about $1.9 million.

Expenditures increased about $765,000. Some is for salaries and benefits for employees hired to help implement the turnaround at Kennedy, which had a low ranking in state testing last year. Capital expenditures for iPads are also included.

The original budget included some deficit spending — using the district’s undesignated general fund balance to help pay for improvement plans at the district’s elementary schools, Harrington said.

With the additional state aid, the fund balance will stay relatively healthy. “Enrollment has made a difference,” Harrington said.

The board has long had a policy of maintaining a fund balance that is 6 percent of general fund expenditures, about $2.7 million and enough to cover three weeks of expenses.

The 2011-12 audit indicated a general fund balance of 15.52 percent or $6.6 million. Original budget plans would have decreased that balance to 9.8 percent, but the revised budget projects a bund balance of 14 percent at the end of the year, about $6.34 million. That’s enough to pay about 7 weeks of district expenses.

In other business, the board unanimously denied a grievance from several elementary reading teachers. The part-time teachers had filed the grievance over scheduling and a dispute over whether parts of their workday should be considered student contact time or general duty time, which are defined in the union contract.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard announced that the district will have school on Feb. 18, Presidents’ Day, to make up for a storm closing schools on Monday.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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