Minot Public Schools looking at $6 million budget shortfall
The Minot Public School District is looking at a $6.4 million budget deficit for the 2021-22 school year, and district residents could see a 2 mill increase on the school levy.
The school board gave first reading to the budget on Thursday.
Business manager Scott Moum cautioned that it is far from the final version of the budget, which will be approved in October.
“I think there are some areas I can go in and make reductions,” said Moum.
The district had roughly 200 fewer students enrolled in its schools last school year, which meant the district will receive about $2 million less in per pupil aid from the state this year. Funding per student is based on daily average enrollment the previous year.
The district also gave teachers, faculty and staff a 1% salary increase for the coming year when contracts were negotiated last spring, and about 83 percent of the budget is salaries and benefits for school employees.
Last year’s budget had a $3 million deficit when it was originally filed, but Moum said the district actually came out ahead budget-wise at the end of the year, due largely to federal grant funding.
But he doesn’t anticipate much in the way of revenue increases this year.
Tax valuations in the district are down slightly, based on initial assessments. Commercial property valuations have declined. Moum said the district will likely max out its allowable school tax levy and the levy will probably increase by about 2 mills.
School board member Miranda Schuler said the deficit is “too big” and the district must do better in budgeting. She voted not to approve the first reading of the budget; the other four board members gave their approval.
To reduce budget deficits in the future, it will come down to hard choices about staffing, said Moum – reducing staff numbers and possibly increasing class sizes.
District Assistant Superintendent Tracey Lawson said the district has been waiting to fill about seven positions to see what school enrollment will look like for the coming year.
Initial kindergarten enrollment is expected to be about 580, fewer than the 700 or so kids who have been enrolled in previous years, but more kids could be enrolled in the coming weeks, said Superintendent Mark Vollmer.
The board also learned that the CLC after-school program will have to increase its fees for parents this coming year because of a budget shortfall. Boyd Strand, the director, said a custodian will have to be laid off, and the program will try to avoid staff reductions by moving current staffers into other positions at other schools. The district will also use some federal grant dollars to make up some of the difference.