EAU CLAIRE — Budgets and finances were on the minds of Eau Claire school board members this week. The board held a public hearing on the district’s new 2019-2020 budget and will vote on adopting it at their next meeting, on June 17.

Superintendent Ann Shell said the new general fund budget calls for a slight surplus, with $8.8 million in revenue and $8.7 million in expenditures. Those numbers are down more than $500,000 from the initial general fund budget approved last June, as well as more than $100,000 down from the most recent budget amendment in February.

Shell said she expects the final 2018-19 budget amendment the board will vote on June 17 will have numbers similar to the new 2019-20 budget, with revenue of $8.8 million and expenditures of $8.7 million.

She noted that it’s hard for districts to develop budgets right now because the state Legislature and governor have not finalized action on how much state aid will be given schools for the upcoming school year. 

Shell said the school board’s goal for the district is to get back on an even keel financially. “We’re trying to stay within our means, but our student enrollment has gone down the last few years,” she said. “… We’re trying to build up our fund balance.”

Student enrollment in the district was over 900 students as recently as a few years ago, but was down to 761 students for the February student count.

The district has had to submit documentation to the state regarding district finances over the last year or so, because the fund balance fell way below the recommended level of having a fund balance of 15 percent or more of expenditures.

The district’s fund balance was at $216,930, or 2.4 percent of expenditures, at the time of the last budget amendment in February. The district ran a general fund budget deficit of over $640,000 for the 2017-18 school year.

Shell said the district is approaching the new school year conservatively in other ways as well. She noted that they’re not planning to open up as many schools of choice slots for students from other school districts, as they have in past years.

In addition, the search is continuing for a new middle/high school principal after Chris Smedley announced his resignation earlier this spring. Shell said a second round of interviews with four applicants will conclude this week. She said the board is expected to interview the final two candidates still this month.

She said all four applicants still in the running for the principal’s job are from outside of the district.