MI-B Rangers

MOUNTAIN IRON — The Mountain Iron-Buhl school district’s proposed 2020 budget calls for a $629,100 increase over the 2019 revised budget.

The MI-B School Board discussed the revised and proposed budgets at Monday’s working session and will take action on the matter at the next regular meeting June 24.

The increase is tied to higher debt services for the district.

The proposed 2020 fiscal year budget is $6,732,503 compared to 2019’s revised budget of $6,103,403.

Debt services in the revised 2019 were $839,233 compared to $1,670,382 in the proposed 2020 budget.

The general fund balance is about the same — $3,325,924 for the revised 2019 budget and $3,287,054 for the 2020 projection, MI-B Business Manager Michelle Hopkins told the board.

The 2019 revised budget was based on a conservative enrollment estimate increase from 484 to 522 students, according to a handout from school officials.

Other changes accounting for the 2019 revised budget include:

• Additional costs for insuring and minimally heating and maintaining the old high school building in downtown Mountain Iron.

• Additional equipment needs, including a special education van costing $28,000 and a printer of about $9,000.

• Additional educational software and curriculum expenses of about $70,000 over the proposed budget for the year.

• Additional costs of sending several MI-B teams to the state championships, along with football equipment needs totaling an increase of about $46,000.

• Receiving voluntary pre-kindergarten funding retroactively to the beginning of the year, funding the school readiness program and reducing deficit spending in the community service fund.

The proposed 2020 budget is based on an enrollment estimate of roughly the same number of students — 523, Hopkins said.

Budget assumptions for fiscal year 2020 include:

• It being a negotiation year for both teacher and non-certified contracts, so expenditures will likely increase.

• Reduced staffing expenditures, including office restructuring.

• Reduced transportation expenditures with no new buses being purchased and lease payments finished. The district will be purchasing new iPads for the elementary school, but costs will be reduced overall, according to information from the district.

• The assumption that the district will no longer have costs of the old high school building.

• Voluntary pre-kindergarten may or may not return, so it is not included in revenue, resulting in deficit spending in the community service fund. That would result in a transfer required from the general fund.

The board also discussed the district’s collaborative effort regarding administrative staff, transportation and district support staff which affected the 2019 budget.

In the “old setup,” the school had a superintendent/principal, a principal, and an in-school suspension director. In the new setup, there is a superintendent, principal, ISS has been reduced, and the district hired a curriculum director and dean.

While the district spent roughly $2,200, it “gained a dean and a curriculum director,” Hopkins said.

However, “as we move forward” the collaborative expenses “will be less,” she said.

In other business, the board:

• Heard from Jodi Phaneuf, MI-B’s Early Childhood Family Education and school readiness coordinator, and Tina Fredrickson, an early childhood supervisor, regarding a joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Education for a “pyramid model” being implemented in the district’s Early Childhood Special Education program. The board will vote on the agreement at an upcoming meeting.

The district received a grant to launch the model, which is a framework for meeting the social and emotional needs of young children. The $36,000 grant will be spread across five years, with $12,000 allotted for the first year.

The program will enhance current teaching methods with the help of internal and external coaches who will train on ways to, for example, embed more social and friendship skill-building into the early childhood classrooms.

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