CHATFIELD, Minn. - In 2015, Chatfield Public Schools projected a modest but gradual increase over the years. That growth did not happen and enrollment has remained relatively stagnant. This year's enrollment is down about 25 students from last year.
By the end of this school year, Chatfield expects to have spent half a million dollars out of fund balance reserve accounts to cover shortfalls over the last 2 years.
Because of the flat enrollment and lack of enough federal funding, the district is making decisions about how to proceed with next year's budget. The district is finding that they will need to cut at least $350,000-425,000 for next year using a combination of budget reduction and operation levy increase.
"I'm hopeful that we'll keep being opportunistic and tuning the budget to our favor," says Superintendent Ed Harris. "We will find a new normal like we always have."
Harris explains that budgets will be made across the general fund, with a goal of not dipping too deeply into any one area. He also wants to stress that the recent construction project at the high school did not play a role in the budget deficit, as construction project funds are managed separately and Minnesota does not allow those funds to be used for general operating expenses.
Chatfield's current operating levy will expire in 2022, so the community has the opportunity to renew or increase that levy before the deadline. A survey will be going out to taxpayers this spring to get feedback about how much support there may be for an increase in the operating levy.
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