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Morris Area Superintendent's Report

As mentioned in two previous articles, school finance in Minnesota is considered by many to be complicated. Events taking place in St. Paul are likely to affect the Morris Area School District's financial situation. In this article, I will share other pieces of information about aspects of our district's financial status.

From 2003-2007, there were nearly $1.8 million in budget adjustments made in the Morris Area School District. These adjustments were a combination of revenue increases and expenditure decreases or cuts, and were made largely because of declining student enrollment and minimal funding increases from the State of Minnesota. These were difficult, although necessary, to make. Some have stated to me the reductions during this period were about downsizing/rightsizing the district.

The past few years in our district, the financial position of the school district has improved. This is largely the result of the difficult budget adjustments, a rebound in student enrollment, conservative budgeting, mild winters, proactive planning, and even a few unanticipated surprises. The district has improved its fund balance and cash flow significantly and may be able to discontinue borrowing money each fiscal year to cover cash flow. Not borrowing money would be beneficial because of the savings for not having to pay interest. The district is now positioned relatively well to navigate through some potentially difficult financial times in the next few years. Unfortunately, many feel that schools are in the midst of a seven-year period with no funding increases or potentially funding decreases.

As you may be aware, district residents supported a renewal and increase of the district's operating levy in November 2010. Without passage of this operating levy, the district would be trying to work its way through the budgeting process for next school year with significantly less revenue. Not passing the operating levy would have resulted in difficult decisions for the School Board to make and most likely program reductions and/or fee increases. Fortunately, the levy was successful, and the funding generated starting with the 2011-2012 school year will be an important part of programming and options for students.

The seriousness with which the district takes the responsibility of financial planning is worth noting, since a large portion of the district's revenue comes from local funding. The School Board recently chose not to levy the maximum amounts allowed - instead, they decided to keep the total of all local levies at the same amount it was last year, which resulted in a zero percent overall levy change. The board made this decision as a way to thank taxpayers for support for the district and the passage of the recent levy, to show that the district is a responsible caretaker of the taxpayers' money, and to show that the district recognizes and cares about the taxpayers' financial challenges as well as the district's budget.

For more information, questions or inquiries, feel free to contact Scott Monson at (320) 589-4840 or