Bemidji School District Faces Possible Budget Deficit of $1.3 Million
When it comes to the Bemidji Area Schools budget, the district falls about $1.3 million short, but there’s no need for too much worry.
Superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools Tim Lutz says, “One thing I should point out is that this $1.3 million shortfall is still only just shy of 2 percent of our overall $66 million budget, so while this sounds like a lot when you say $1.3 million, it is just a fraction of the budget.”
First, let’s look at how the district got to this point. There are four major areas that put the school district over. For one, a new charter school is coming to the district, which will take away about $600,000 revenue.
“What that cause us to do is we still need to transport those students at an additional cost for our district, and we need to cover a lot of that special education shortfall,” says Lutz.
This leads to transportation costs, which also falls short.
Lutz says, “Busing is a requirement, and the way the funding formula works in the state of Minnesota leaves us short, this year about $561,000 dollars.”
Third, the operating levy is about one half of the state average. Taxpayers in Bemidji already foot 10 percent of the total education budget – that’s a little over $400 per student.
Lutz says, “Down in the Cities, the Metro areas, in some cases the operating referendum is about $1,200 per student, and what we’re asking here is simply too much of a burden on our taxpayers.”
Probably the biggest piece of the deficit is putting up the cost for the required special education needs. The government is supposed to cover around 40 percent of those cost, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen.
“The federal government does not reimburse us anymore than 17 percent or 18 percent in any given year, so this year we have a special education shortfall which we call a cross subsidy,” says Lutz.
The district is working on a game plan to cut costs. They plan to host a meeting in the coming weeks to decide how to address it.
“Some of the reductions will have to be in the areas of staffing, but we’re not totally sure yet where those staffing cuts will take place. We’re going to look at areas where we might have redundancies and areas where we can increase our efficiencies, but that’ll have to be something we discuss with the principals and with the school board,” says Lutz.
Superintendent Lutz says he plans to address the state legislature soon to advocate for increased funds for education, particularly in the special education department.