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EM school board approves preliminary $11 million budget

By LeAnn R. Ralph

ELK MOUND —  The Elk Mound Board of Education has approved a preliminary general fund budget of $11 million for 2013-2014 with a tax levy of $2.8 million that is 2.2 percent less than last year.

The school board reviewed the preliminary budget at a special meeting July 29 and approved it for presentation at the annual meeting on August 26.

The tax levy will decrease by $63,240, while state aid is expected to increase by about $240,000, said Dr. Ron Walsh, superintendent.

State aid for 2013-2014 will amount to $7.89 million, compared to $7.67 million last year.

Elk Mound’s student population has increased, so the district will be receiving more state aid, Dr. Walsh noted.

The projected tax levy for 2013-2014 will include $1.9 million for general expenses and $873,654 in debt service.

Last year’s tax levy was $2.9 million.

The mill rate for the 2013-2014 school year also will decrease, going from $10.30 per $1,000 of property value last year to $9.97 this year, meaning that taxpayers will pay $32.90 less per $100,000 of property value.

Expenditures for the general fund budget for this year are $11.03 million, compared to $10.79 million last year.

The grand total in revenue for all funds, except the special education fund, is $13.74 million, compared to $13.83 million last year.

Elk Mound is expecting about $700,000 this year in tuition for students who are open enrolled into the district, Dr. Walsh said.

The number of students open enrolled into Elk Mound is about twice the number of students who open enroll out of the district, he said, noting that about 120 students are expected to open-enroll into the district, and about 60 are expected to open-enroll out.

Here are some other facts and figures from 2013-2014 budget:

• Salaries will account for $5.1 million of the budget, compared to $4.9 million last year. This does not include food service and special education salaries. The amount for salaries has increased largely because the number of staff has increased, Dr. Walsh said.

• Benefits in the 2013-2014 budget amount $2.83 million, compared to $3.05 million last year. Salary and benefits are about 70 percent of Elk Mound’s budget; most school districts are between 70 and 80 percent of the budget for salaries and benefits, Dr. Walsh said.

• Purchased services for this year will be $1.49 million, compared to $1.11 million last year. Purchased services include energy costs, and Dr. Walsh said he had added 30 percent to the budget for increased energy costs.

• The special education budget is listed as $1.4 million for this year, compared to $1.35 million last year. The special education fund budget is based on the student population and the district’s poverty level. Elk Mound has 11 staff members assigned to special education.

• The debt service total is $1.15 million and includes $695,000 in principal and $456,115 in interest, compared to $675,000 in principal last year and $479,260 in interest.

• The food service budget started with a balance of $204,848. Over the past few years, the school district has had to raise the lunch rates as required by law, Dr. Walsh said, adding that the district has applied for a waiver this year so the lunch rates will not have to increase. Lunch revenue was $301,000 this year, compared to $290,789 last year.

• The employment benefit fund is listed as $2.09 million this year, compared to $1.6 million last year.

• The school district’s equalized value is expected to be $280 million, compared to $281 million last year. Over the last ten years, the highest equalized value was $289 million in 2007-2008. The lowest equalized value was $212 million in 2003-2004.

• The number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch is between 35 and 40 percent of the student population. In the past, the number stayed under 30 percent for years, Dr. Walsh said. The increase in free or reduced lunch numbers is true all over the state and reflects the poor state of the economy since 2008, he said.