WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- WWG — Due to the recent positive state budget numbers, schools in the state will receive approximately half of the most recent funding shift held back by the state. The move was done to help the state balance the last budget for the biennium.
In that budget shift the WWG district had about 1.5 million withheld from state aid. With the current pay back the district will receive $790,262 of that money back right away.
Superintendent Loy Woelber feels the money will be welcome to all districts. Although Westbrook Walnut Grove has not had to borrow due to the shortfall, many districts were forced into that position and that costs money to do that.
Woelber also commented that even though the district actually did not receive the funds from the shift, they were required to show it in the fund balance. Without that money in the bank, the district’s fund balance of 1.9 million normally would give the district a four month cushion of operating capital, but in reality it was actually only a one month cushion.
At the planning and budget meeting last week Monday night board members and staff members discussed things to consider when setting the next budget.
Student numbers were discussed, enrollments have dropped significantly the past few years. Enrollments increased several years ago when large Hmong families moved into the community at Walnut Grove.
Woelber said simply put, “revenue is student driven.” He talked about several aspects involving highlighting what the district is proud of. Board members talked about getting more information out about the good things in the school.
When new families move into the area and inquire, the district needs to follow up with positive information detailing the positives of our school.
Home school is taking a large chunk out of public education. The district should try to connect with home school people to show them things that are hard to do at home.
According to elementary principal Paul Olson, pre-school numbers are up quite a bit. It is good to get these kids in the system as many will continue into kindergarten.
It was suggested the district look into a day care program in Walnut Grove, possibly utilizing people who are now in the day care business to run it. But it was made clear they did not want to compete with local day care providers.
There was talk about planning for the eventual shut down of the west wing of the school for possible commercial use. Another thought was to utilize some of the space in that wing for out reach classes for retraining displaced or under employed workers.
Looking at expenses with two sites, administration costs are much higher. Regular staff costs are higher but the district offers some courses not available in other districts.
Discussion was held on foundations. The Walnut Grove Community Foundation gives back between $10,000 to $15,000. The Westbrook Education Foundation is much more limited in funding options.
The Westbrook Walnut Grove Levy Referendum is one of the lowest in the area at $700 per pupil. The levy currently is matched by the state at 67 percent ($700 is the maximum amount matched by the state). Woelber said when levying, the district should keep that in mind.
Other ideas that were considered were, making the BOLT class a club like FFA. More fund raising in foundations.
With the retirements submitted this year, Woelber feels that staff will not have to be cut, however there may be some re-assignments to utilize staff more efficiently. Also there is a need to look at marketing skills of the staff for online courses.
Woelber felt they need to look at more sharing and selling time to other districts in administration, counseling, ESL and other areas.
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