The Wrenshall School Board has approved its 2019-20 budget that projects a deficit of more than $11,000.
After initially being faced with an $85,000 shortfall, the budget committee made some cuts, including an elementary school teaching position, and received more than $48,000 in special education funding from the state of Minnesota that wasn’t initially in the budget. After receiving a $20,000 grant toward the purchase of a new bus, the district found itself with a $679 surplus.
The deficit is the result of the school board’s decision to lease 135 Chromebooks for four years at a cost of $12,049. The laptops primarily use Google’s Chrome browser to perform a variety of tasks with most data saved in a cloud storage system.
Technology director Jamie Hopp said during the School Board meeting Monday, June 17, that leasing the computers is better than purchasing because the support is better and the computers typically don’t last more than four years.
“It’s the least fiscal responsibility on our part and then they are covered for that four years completely,” Hopp said. “If something happens, it’s not a parent’s responsibility and we can take care of it here. They are really disposable. They are only supported for five years and you get four years of really good use — we hope — and then they go on to the graveyard.”
With the lease of the new Chromebooks, the school will have dedicated sets of Chromebooks to use in high school math, English and social studies classes.
Board Chair Matthew Laveau said despite the fact that the Chromebook expense causes a projected deficit, the new computers are worth it.
“I think the idea is to keep moving forward, and this might be one way to do a little improvement for next year that doesn’t cost a ton of money, ” Leveau said.
Board Vice Chair Janaki Fisher-Merritt, who also serves on the budget committee, said the adopted budget was based on an enrollment of 365 students, but the current projected enrollment is 366 students, which would increase funding and erase at least some of the projected deficit.
“With just the number of little areas where we’ve been conservative budget-wise, I think there’s a decent chance that even if we plan for a $12,000 deficit, we’re going to come out ahead anyway, especially if we can keep enrollment up,” Fisher-Merritt said. “Doing things like this, I think, helps with maintaining students’ interest and staff morale.”
The adopted budget also factors in a 2 percent revenue increase from the state and a 2 percent raise for teachers and administrators.