District 27J board approves $118-million 2014-15 budget

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — The School District 27J Board of Education approved of an $118-million general fund budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year on a 6-0 vote during the May 27 meeting.

A little over $115 million of the budget’s revenue comes from a mix of the state’s approval of the 2014 School Finance Bill, the Student Success Act and a slight increase to account for inflation. The district will receive approximately $8.4 million more in state education funding than it received during the current fiscal year.

According to a district press release, the increase includes money to maintain student-teacher ratios similar to the past school year; increase funding for special education services such as additional employees, transportation and transportation staff and a middle school autism program; funding for district technology; maintaining the current benefit programs for faculty and staff; and a statutory increase of 0.9 percent in the district pension contribution. 

The district also plans to use nearly $3 million from the district’s fund balance, which the board approved in a separate 6-0 vote. The fund balance will be used for one-time improvements such as getting Brighton Heritage Academy ready for next year’s incoming freshman class, purchasing eight new buses — four new propane buses and four new special education buses — and other technology upgrades.

In addition to the approval of the budget, the board adopted fee schedules for the upcoming academic year. Students in every grade level will see a 10-cent increase in the cost of breakfast, lunch and milk. Meal prices for adults will increase 15 cents.

Other changes were made to fees for high school students. The fee for world languages was changed from $15 per semester to an annual fee of $15, the fee for Project Lead the Way Health Sciences Careers was changed from $10 per semester to an annual fee of $25, the fee for keyboarding/guitar was reduced $5 to $35 and the fee for all science classes — including honors and AP science classes — was changed to $10 per semester. Fees for science classes ranged from $10 to $20 this year. 

Director Rick Doucet was not present at the meeting and could not cast a vote.

In other business, Chris Fiedler said he was pleased to report the total number of expulsions for the 2013-14 academic year was 25, which is a decrease of 29 expulsions from last year’s total of 54 expulsions. He attributed the decrease to the work of Director of Intervention Services Kevin West, who was hired at the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year, as well as individual school administration.