Officials ask for assist with fragile budget

by T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol reporter

Sen. David Brown, R-Becker, sat before the Senate education committee today (March 8) with Elk River School District officials at his shoulders, trying to get authorization for the school district to transfer funds. School district finance official Randy Anderson, left, and Elk River School Superintendent Mark Bezek, right, testified on behalf of the bill.

A bill carried by Sen. David Brown, R-Becker, would allow school district officials to transfer funds from its debt redemption fund to the general fund without a levy reduction for a two-year period beginning July 1.

Elk River Superintendent Mark Bezek told the committee the school district is nursing an “extremely fragile budget.”

The proposed transfer from the redemption fund — a move approved by the school board, Bezek said — is another way to plug the hole in the school district budget.

The school district, explained Bezek, has about a $120 million budget but struggles week to week with about a five percent fund balance.

The district is growing. Costs are going up, he explained.

“This request is critical for our continuing operation to remain in the black,” he said.

Currently, the school district has about $3 million its debt redemption fund, according to Senate documents.

Over the last three years, the fund has hovered around that amount.

The authorization, if granted, would allow the school district to transfer 80 percent of the debt redemption fund  — about $2.6 million — over a two-year period.

Bezek indicated that this would be one-time transfer.

Debate on the proposed legislation in committee was not lengthy, with the bill being held over for possible inclusion in a larger committee bill.

No votes were taken.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, indicated after committee that a decision on the request would occur in the near future.

The legislation is carried in the House by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyere, R-Big Lake.

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