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Ellsworth School District faces $650,000 budget deficit, board told

A 2010-11 budget projection for the district was presented to the Ellsworth School Board Monday.

Elements of the budget forecast include a $650,000 budget deficit, which Superintendent Barry Cain said represents an amount to be made up through cuts and adjustments. Cain reminded the board approximately $500,000 in budget reductions were made in the current budget before the state legislature decreased funding to the district, resulting in spending from the budget's fund balance. Tapping the fund balance shouldn't be done on a yearly basis, he said.

"These are substantial," he said about past budget reduction efforts, which he estimated total between $3 million and $4 million since 2000. He believes the district will need to hold a levy override referendum during the 2010-11 school year (the previous operating referendum expired with the 2008-09 budget, meaning its $250,000 amount is no longer available).

Other notable items in the current budget mentioned by the superintendent were administrative reductions and the addition of the four-year-old kindergarten program, the latter serving to stabilize local state aid, though that wasn't the primary intention when it was created.

He listed major expenditures in the current budget while considering those needed or not needed in the next one. They were: the middle school roof project ($353,124), the math curriculum expense ($61,000), roofing replacement costs ($54,000), computer network virtualization, bus purchase ($78,000) and other energy efficiency lighting projects. Of these, he recommended keeping roofing replacement and bus purchase as factors in the new budget.

Among key assumptions in the '10-'11 budget projection are: flat enrollment, flat property valuation, open enrollment stable, a state aid per student increase of $200 (the current amount) and a low revenue ceiling of $9,000 per student (the current amount). Any could change and affect the budget outcome, Cain admitted.

Toward the '10-'11 budget, school officials will continue to evaluate revenue and expenditure estimates, he said. A budget and finance information committee has been developed, with its first meeting set for Tuesday, Jan. 26. A health insurance information gathering committee has also been developed. And the administrative team is working on possible reductions and revenue enhancements.

Read more in the print version of the Herald Jan. 13.

Bill Kirk
Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.
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