Litchfield School Board approved a 2020-2021 preliminary budget with general fund revenue of $19.2 million during its meeting June 29.
The budget, presented by Business Manager Jesse Johnson, is based on student enrollment of 1,545 in 2021 — a decrease of 11 students from 2020 — and includes expenses of $18.7 million.
The budget also assumes a 2 percent increase, or $129, per pupil unit in the general education funding from the state, which equates to $6,567 per student.
Other key revenue and expense assumptions include:
$973,000 increase in the local operating levy, an increase approved in a November district referendum;
$97,000 increase (3 percent) in special education funding;
$72,000 increase (10 percent) in special education transportation expenses;
a reading curriculum purchase of $150,000.
The 2020-2021 budget also assumes that teacher and other staff wages will be held at 2019-2020 levels, though contracts with the respective unions remain unsettled.
While the increased funding that comes as a result of the operating levy passed last year is good news, the budget remains a bit of a conundrum because of the uncertainty around what the next school year will look like, Johnson said.
The state Department of Education recently issued guidelines that included three possibilities for the start of the 2020-2021 school year: all students back in the classroom, all students distance learning, or a hybrid with half of the students in class each day and half distance learning.
“This budget is based on the in-school model,” Johnson said. “A revision is probably going to be very important this year, depending on where we’re at.”
The hybrid option would be the most expensive for the district, Johnson explained, because of social distancing necessary for student transportation, meaning fewer students per bus, as well as technology upgrades and likely staffing changes.
“If we go hybrid, this budget would be very, very wrong,” Johnson said.
Construction house sale approved
While the coronavirus pandemic and distance learning made the usual education approach a challenge this past school year, the end result was pretty impressive in at least one case at Litchfield High School.
The board approved June 29 the sale of the construction technology house for a record $105,000. The sale was accomplished via an online auction on June 25.
The previous high sale amount was $87,500, with sales recorded back to 2014, according to Business Manager Jesse Johnson.
“It is a really nice house,” board Chairman Darrin Anderson said. “I can’t stress enough how proud we are of the work they did.”
“I really hand it to him,” board member Greg Mathews said of instructor John Spanos. “(They) didn’t have class for eight weeks and still managed to pull this off.”
Meal prices going up slightly
The 2020-2021 preliminary budget includes a 5-cent increase in the price of school meals, as well as a 5-cent increase in the federal lunch/breakfast reimbursement rate. The cost of a student meal at Lake Ripley Elementary will be $2.50 and will be $2.60 at the middle and high school.
Food service revenue is expected to rise by about $9,000, to $968,488 based on these rate increases, Business Manager Jesse Johnson said.