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Board approves early budget
MONROE - With negotiations with the Monroe Education Association expected to come together after the Fourth of July, the Monroe School Board approved a temporary 2013-14 budget that includes a projected $1.24 million deficit.

Monroe School District Business Manager Ron Olson gave a presentation on the temporary $27.8 million budget for 2013-14, which was unanimously approved by the board Monday night. Teachers in Monroe have been under a two-year salary schedule freeze and their contract expires June 30. Olson said there is an estimated increase projected in the 2013-14 budget for teachers' salaries, but he declined to say what percent of an increase was built into the budget. Olson said he is planning on setting up a negotiations meeting with MEA after the Fourth of July.

"Sometimes negotiations take time," Olson said. "Whenever they get settled we will make the adjustments. We look at the Consumer Price Index for base wages and that is 2.07 percent."

The Consumer Price's base wage increase doesn't include allotments for steps and lanes, Olson said.

Expenses in the temporary budget are projected to be $27.8 million, a 0.59 percent increase from last year. Revenues in the budget are projected to be $26.6 million, which is a 0.31 percent decline from last year. The preliminary budget plan that was approved Monday included a $180,000 savings due to the reduction of two charter school teachers and about $15,000 in custodial savings since charter school staff are being moved into the high school, Olson said.

The district has about $7.5 million in fund balance and they are expecting to use a portion of that to cover the deficit next year.

The district will also operate without a middle school assistant principal after cutting the position for the fall as part of reductions planned after a four-year, $8 million non-recurring referendum failed in 2011.

The district will be transferring an in-district Title I teacher to be a new sixth grade teacher due to a larger class expected in the fall. Olson said the district has some costs associated with the retirement of at least 15 teachers. Olson used a state budget increase of $150 per pupil ($75 to the revenue limit and $75 to categorical state aid). The budget also includes $25,000 for the funding of Monroe High School boys and girls soccer.

"There are no estimates on the total levy, levy increase or mill rates since there are too many unknowns even to speculate on those," Olson said.

The district started last year with about a $1 million deficit. They are projecting to come in $445,000 under what they budgeted for 2012-13. Olson said the district still had a $550,000 deficit this year and that will be covered by fund balance.

If the district uses the projected $1.2 million from fund balance next year to plug the deficit, the fund balance would drop to $6.2 million, Olson said.

"The magic number is $6 million," he said, of trying to maintain at least that much in fund balance. "We can then avoid short-term cash borrowing. It can be under that when the interest rates are as low as they are now. I would never, ever want to see it as low as $4 million. If it gets to $5 million, we will have to have some serious conversations."

The district has several other projects that are not included in the budget that are expected to be funded through fund balance, including the remodeling of the chemistry rooms at the high school, a portion of the elevator at the District Administrative Center, high school security cameras, and walkie talkies for the district.

The state aid picture remains murky since Gov. Scott Walker can veto parts of the proposed biennial budget. Olson said enrollment in the district, which has declined in recent years, is staying consistent at 2,750 district-wide with about 700 to 740 students at the high school.

"At this time of year, it's very early in the process," Olson said. "We are hoping to get a fair estimate of our state aid by the (state Department of Public Instruction) in July."