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New finance chief seeks balanced school budget

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • December 21, 2012 - 5:42 PM

With a gap of about $24 million projected between what Minneapolis schools expect to take in during the next school year and what they already spend, Robert Doty has set a lofty goal.

The district’s finance chief wants to balance the district’s 2013-2014 budget without deficit spending.  "We are going to try very hard to do that," Doty told the school board Friday.

The district hasn’t balanced its budget without dipping into its budget surplus for at least two years.  This school year, for example, it pulled $18 million out of reserves to balance the budget.

But tapping that source to offset the imbalance is obviously something that can’t happen forever, even if the district is sitting on a reserve of more than $63 million.

That’s the uncommitted portion of a budget balance that’s twice that size, but the other half is already committed to purposes such as building projects or other restricted uses.

Doty is beginning his second cycle as finance chief. His department’s budget projection is based on spending for next school year remaining at this year’s level.  But with a new round of labor negotiations and other expenses potentially rising, he knows that district needs other cuts to keep spending flat.
       
Where will he generate that kind of money?  The district is reviewing the filling of every new position; not a pay freeze, he said, but hard scrutiny.  There’s a review of 10 activities in five divisions of the district to see if they’re needed and if they could be farmed out for less.

The board’s finance committee will get a special review of five spending areas where its members are concerned about spending or services: special education, immigrant education, class sizes, labor costs and services the district provides centrally.

Besides balancing the budget without dipping into reserves, Doty is also hoping to focus spending more closely on the district’s academic and other goals.

The budget needs to be adopted by next June 30.
 

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