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Amid confusion about expected deficit, Rochester Schools may end year $10 million stronger than planned

The positive news comes on the heels of the district having to trim its budget to handle what was expected to be a $23 million deficit.

Rochester School Board
A school board meeting is held on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at the Edison Building in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — In spite of some misinformation about the status of Rochester Public Schools' budget deficit, the district may end up $10 million healthier by the end of the year than originally anticipated.

RPS Director of Finance John Carlson gave an update to the School Board Tuesday. He said the final year-end revenues are expected to be $1.86 million more than budgeted, and the final expenditures are expected to be $8.79 million lower than budgeted. Together, the total impact is a net positive of $10.65 million.

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"We budget conservatively on revenues, but the trends are showing we'll probably have a little bit more revenue than we planned for this year," Carlson said. "When we have an expenditure budget, we try to be very careful with that and try to come in under budget and spend less than the total resources that have been approved."

Carlson clarified that in spite of the positive prediction, they are still in the process of paying bills for the summer. And then the district will have to go through the auditing process.

The positive news comes on the heels of the district having to trim its budget to handle what was expected to be a $23 million deficit for the fiscal year that started July 1. The district ultimately eliminated that deficit through a combination of efforts, which included COVID relief funding, the cancellation of leases, a reduction of expenses, and the use of some of the district's savings, among others.

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In spite of the fact that the district located enough ways to address the predicted deficit, the issue became a hot topic at a series of recent school board candidate forums. Some candidates frequently referred to the deficit as something still looming over the district's head.

During Tuesday's meeting, Carlson briefly spoke about how the forecast should benefit the district moving forward.

"Should we end up with a surplus, it will help cushion (us) and help us react to the potential for future deficits," Carlson said.

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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