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Monroe school board OKs budget with $1.8M deficit
MONROE - The Monroe school board approved a $28.5 million preliminary 2013-14 budget that includes a $1.3 million operating deficit and just a slight bump in school property taxes.

Monroe business manager Ron Olson presented the preliminary 2013-14 budget Monday, Sept. 9. Olson said the district has $500,000 in capital projects that have to be paid for, for a total $1.8 million deficit. Under the budget plan, the district will pay for capital projects with money from the $7.3 million in fund balance.

Olson remains confident the district can bring in expenditures less than projected.

"We can beat that $1.8 million," Olson said. "We should be able to bring it in under. We hope to come in around a half million or more better than that by the time the year ends, based on previous experience."

The capital projects are the two new chemistry labs at Monroe High School; the new elevator at the Monroe Public Library that provides access to district offices; a new security camera system at the high school; and asphalt projects across the district.

The board unanimously approved the preliminary budget in anticipation of the district's annual meeting Oct. 21.

Olson said the budget was projected with some unknowns including property valuations; the district's portion of state aid; enrollment, which is finalized the third Friday in September; and computer aid.

Based on last year's property valuation, Olson estimated that school taxes on a $100,000 house will be $1,173.18, which is a 0.69 percent increase or $8 more than last year. The mill rate would be $11. 73 per thousand dollars of assessed value, compared to $11.65 last year.

"I hate to report this," Olson said. "It doesn't mean nothing at this time" as numbers are still preliminary. "We don't know what the state aid is and what the property valuations are."

The proposed property tax rate is based on an estimated preliminary $11.6 million total levy.

Revenues are expected to be about the same as last year at $26.7 million. Olson said through open enrollment, the district breaks about even with students coming in and leaving the district.

It's the second week of school and teachers are still looking to finalize a new contract with the district. The previous contract expired June 30. Teachers are working under the former contract and once there is a settlement with the Monroe Education Association, the pay for teachers will be retroactive.

Olson has said a salary increase for teachers was factored into the budget.

Administrators and exempt staff, such as the building and grounds director and director of food service, received a 2.06 percent raise. Olson said the district saved $90,000 by cutting the assistant principal position at Monroe Middle School and having a new high school principal and assistant principal.

Monroe School Board President Bob Erb questioned a projected a $50,000 increase in general administration costs budgeted this year compared to what was audited last year. The district budgeted $477,000 in general administration costs last year and spent just $422,000. However, Olson said the district has some new costs such as legal fees, an actuarial study and health screenings it didn't have last year.