Members of the Mohonasen Board of Education took a preliminary look at the budget picture for 2016-17 at their Monday, Feb. 8, meeting.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Chris Ruberti provided the board with a five-year financial overview, which is challenging due to the uncertainty of state aid on an annual basis. However, Ruberti shared historical data as well as budget assumptions based on the Governor’s proposed spending plan for 2016-17. In addition, he demonstrated how minor changes in the assumptions can create significant swings in revenue.
Ruberti said preliminary calculations indicate the district’s tax levy limit is 3.42 percent.
“There are some fluctuating pieces of the puzzle that may allow us to go out with a proposed budget that reflects a tax levy limit closer to 2.25 percent,” he said.
For school districts, the tax levy limit is the highest allowable tax levy (before exclusions) that a school district can propose as part of its annual budget and need the approval of only a simple majority of voters (50 percent plus 1) to pass the budget. If a district proposes a budget with a tax levy amount (before exclusions) above this limit, it will need the approval of a supermajority of voters (60 percent) to pass the budget.
Ruberti said the district’s biggest challenge for Mohonasen’s 2016-17 school budget is not on the expense side of the budget but on the revenue side.
The district has worked hard in recent years to contain costs and find other revenue sources, he said.
“We have collaborated with other districts to share ideas and find savings, and we will continue to research ways to mitigate rising insurance costs,” said Ruberti. The district’s efforts to secure grants most recently resulted in awards totaling $667,000 in grant money to be used to purchase equipment for high-tech labs at the new Center for Advanced Technology.
“We will continue to seek other sources of revenue, but the reality is that state aid has not been delivered as promised,” said Ruberti. “It compromises the district’s ability to expand programs and move forward.”
Ruberti said the community’s help is needed to reach out to legislators and call for an end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and restoration of foundation aid. To date, the district has lost more than $13.4 million in state revenue since the GEA was approved in 2009. In addition, over the past seven years more than $32.3 million has been withheld in foundation aid to Mohonasen.
“The district, the Board of Education and the community must make their voices heard in the call to legislators to put an end to the GEA and fully fund foundation aid,” said Ruberti.
For more information on how to reach legislators representing Mohonasen, visit the district’s Advocacy page.