Marshall School District approves preliminary budget

MARSHALL — Enrollment at Marshall Public Schools is projected to be pretty stable over the next three years, but some costs for the district are still expected to increase for the upcoming school year, district staff said Tuesday.

A preliminary budget for the 2019-2020 school year included projected revenues of $41.243 million and projected expenditures of $41.393 million. Some of those expenditures included increases in the cost of staff salaries and benefits, and purchased services for the district, said business director Dion Caron.

“This will result in deficit spending in our general fund,” Caron said. However, he said the projected general fund deficit, of about $296,000, was smaller than earlier estimates from back in March.

Caron presented the preliminary budget during the Marshall School Board’s regular meeting earlier this week. After discussing the preliminary budget, board members voted to approve it.

There are several factors that affect the school district’s budget and revenue each year, Caron said. The major one is student enrollment. He said Marshall’s K-12 enrollment is expected to hold steady over the next three years, with projections going from 2,487 students in the upcoming school year to 2,558 students in 2021-22.

Later in the board meeting, Superintendent Scott Monson reported that MPS would end the 2018-2019 school year with 2,466 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It’s the ninth year in a row that enrollment has increased, Monson said.

At the same time, the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, special education services, and English Learner services is also growing, the budget report said. In the 2018-19 school year, Marshall had 527 students receiving special education services, and 434 English Learners.

In the preliminary budget for the upcoming school year, both general fund revenue and expenditures showed an increase from 2018-19. The district’s state revenue is projected to be up more than $700,000, with a lot of that money coming from increases in general and special education aid passed this spring, Caron said.

Salaries and benefits make up the majority of general fund expenditures across the school district, Caron said, and expenditures for both are projected to increase in the upcoming school year. Salary and benefit spending has gone up at MPS over the past five years, but Caron said the positive thing is that the change has been gradual.

“There aren’t really any jumps in the salaries and benefits each year,” he said.

Caron said the projected spending for purchased services has also increased about $11,000 over the 2018-19 school year. MPS’ purchased services range from special education services to consulting fees and leases, he said.

Caron said a deficit of about $75,000 was projected for the district’s transportation fund in the 2019-20 school year, in spite of projected increases in revenue.

“Funding just isn’t keeping up with expenditures,” Caron said. The transportation fund had a deficit in the 2018-19 school year as well, and Caron said it’s a pattern that has held true for the past few years.

School board member Aaron Ziemer asked if the transportation budget deficit was a concern going forward.

For now, Caron said, it wasn’t a major concern.

“All in all, the transportation and the general fund, when we submit it to the state, combine,” he said. “When there was an excess in transportation, it would help out the general fund.”

While the district will have to keep an eye on the transportation fund balance, he said, the general fund could help if the transportation fund goes into the negative.