The Merrill Area Public Schools Board of Education got its first preliminary peek at 2014-2015 budget projections Monday night.
“This is a first blush glance at the budget,” said Finance Director Brian Dasher.
The proposed budget is currently projecting a surplus of $364,544. The initial forecast presented to the board in late 2013 projected a deficit of approximately $654,000.
Dasher explained that the now-projected surplus results in a reduction of the CPI cap for salary increases from a projected 2.5% to a cap of 1.46%. The budget also includes the reduction of 3.23 teaching positions amounting to approximately $266,200, a $183,505 reduction in non-staff expenditures and approximately $430,369 in savings in health insurance plan design changes, for a total reduction of $880,074.
Specific staffing reductions are still in process, Dasher said. The board will consider specific staff reductions in April 7 to issue preliminary notices of contract non-renewal due to financial reasons. Specific changes to the health insurance plan have also not yet been identified.
“We are waiting for our renewal information to find out what type of increase we will be facing for next year,” Dasher told the board. “Remember that our cap is a 9% increase and is what we used to build the initial forecast. The $430,369 in savings we are aiming for would be off of that projected increase in rates.”
Another budget wildcard is Bridges Virtual Academy (BVA), a virtual charter school associated with MAPS. MAPS and the BVA governance board recently signed a new contract to bring BVA into compliance with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s definitions of a charter school.
BVA had an enrollment of about 800 students this year. The changes made to the way BVA is operated may have some impact on the enrollment, and therefore the revenue generated by the charter school.
“We identified more expenditure reductions than necessary in order to provide flexibility in addressing lower than expected enrollment in the Bridges Virtual Academy,” Dasher said.
With the open enrollment period still ongoing, the true impact of the changes on BVA enrollment are not yet known, he added.