School board approves budget, tax effects remain unclear

Published 7:34 pm Monday, June 10, 2013

Austin Public School has next year’s budget in place, but unknowns depending on new legislation make it difficult to say how Austin residents’ taxes might change.

During its Monday evening meeting, the board approved a $49.8 million original budget for 2013-2014. State aid, which increases from last year in the proposed budget, make up the vast majority of the district’s general fund in the budget, at about 86 percent. The local tax levy takes up the next largest portion, 7.4 percent, which right now would mean a decrease in the amount the district receives through taxes.

That amount isn’t fixed in place yet, Superintendent David Krenz said last week, and may still change before a levy is set in September and finalized in December. Accordingly, it’s too early to speculate how residents’ taxes will be affected.

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“There are still many of the elements that came out of this legislative session that we’re not clear on,” said Mark Stotts, director of finance and operations. He added the Minnesota Department of Education was sifting through the legislation at this point.

Federal aid and other sources of financing make up the remainder of the budget.

The general education funding per student for the coming school year will increase from $5,224 to $5,302. The student body is estimated to grow by 84 students to 4,595 average daily enrollment. Class sizes will remain about the same, and the equivalent of three more full-time teachers will be added.

Overall, the general fund shows a deficit in the budget, which Stotts said was an intentional move, in part a result of the new I.J. Holton Intermediate School construction, that should cause no problems.

“This is a planned deficit,” he said. “We have adequate fund balance to cover this.”

The school board also approved the district’s health and safety budget for a three-fiscal-year period. The measure includes money for concerns including hazardous substance, asbestos and fire safety, and totals $301,000 for the fiscal year ending in 2013, $320,860 for 2014 and $365,250 for 2015.

For more on the Austin Public Schools Board meeting, look to Tuesday’s print edition of the Herald.