WILLMAR - Willmar Public Schools enrollment is projected to increase in 2019-20 school year, the seventh increase in as many years.
The projection of 4,250 students for the coming school year projects an increase of a few students, and many of the increases since the 2014-15 school year have been small, too. But the sum total for the seven years is a projected increase of about 250 students.
The growth comes even though more than 500 students leave the district due to open enrollment each year, according to the state's 2018 numbers. About 150 come to Willmar from other districts.
The enrollment projection was included in a report on the 2019-10 budget, which the School Board adopted at its meeting Monday.
The district's general fund, which pays for most operations of the district, has projected revenue of $58.3 million, 2.1% more than the revised 2018-19 budget. Expenditures are projected to be $58.4 million, an increase of about 1.52%
The numbers in the budget are based on current circumstances and are likely to change as the year progresses, according to Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington.
The School Board must approve the budget before the fiscal year begins July 1, but many details of the coming school year's funding aren't known.
For example, in addition to voting to increase per student funding 2%, the Legislature made a number of changes in special education programs.
Changes in special education are likely to affect the budget, but "we are waiting to see what the impact will be," Harrington said as the Department of Education develops new formulas.
The district is still waiting to see if it will receive the 21st Century Learning grants which have funded a variety of after-school programs for several years.
Other one-time grants could be received after the year starts, Harrington said.
Expenses have increased due to raises in union contracts and for other reasons.
If the district can't hire enough employees in certain areas, it must contract with an outside service to provide them. Building sites received the first increase for instructional supplies in several years, Harrington said.
Capital expenditures are expected to fall by about one-third as remaining projects funded by the 2015 bond referendum are completed over the next year.
The district's unassigned general fund balance is projected to be $12.8 million in the coming year, about 22% of the district's general fund expenditures.
The district's current policy calls for the balance to be at least 6% of annual expenditures. However, the state uses a different method of calculation, and that can be confusing to residents, Harrington said.
She recommended the board consider using the state's calculation to alleviate confusion. Harrington also said it would be a good time for the board to revisit the policy on its fund balance and possibly raise the amount it wants on hand to maintain cash flow and handle emergencies. The 6% level covers about three weeks of normal expenses.
"We definitely don't want to see it go any higher," she said, but the district could find some one-time ways to spend the money to benefit students.
In other business, the board approved a plan to pay its bus contractors for four of the seven snow days that weren't made up last winter. It's an effort to help the contractors provide compensation to employees who lost pay because of the snow days.
At the end of the meeting, the board voted to close its meeting to the public to do Superintendent Jeff Holm's annual evaluation. The law requires that a report on the evaluation be provided at the next regular meeting.