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Frazee could have avoided activity fee hike

Concerning the Frazee High School picnic table, Superintendent Dale Stender wrote to the Frazee Forum on April 15. He stated: "Cost for one picnic table and one bench equals $2,456, plus shipping $487, and sales tax $202.33 -- for a total of $3,145.33."

According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue and the Minnesota Department of Education-Financial Management division, Minnesota Public Schools are tax-exempt organizations.

They should not pay sales tax. Schools need to simply send a ST-3 form when making purchases. Why did the superintendent pay $202.33, when by law this is not required?

At the District Planning Committee Meeting on April 20, Stender stated that there would be an estimated deficit of $75,240 for the 2010-11 school year.

He said that the expenditures would exceed the revenue for 2010-2011 by $75,240. Therefore, the district would be in deficit spending.

When the Frazee Forum came out on April 22, Stender was quoted as saying there would be a $208,760 positive balance in spending.

He stated that revenues would now exceed expenditures by $208,760. When I checked with the Frazee Forum on this, I was told that the superintendent had contacted the Frazee Forum and told them that an expenditure of $284,000 had been counted twice, thereby throwing the budget off by $284,000.

At the same District Planning Committee Meeting on April 20, Superintendent Stender explained that Capital Outlay funds, like those used for the $7,850 picnic table, could not be used for General Fund spending, such as teachers and supplies.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education-Financial Management division, a state law was passed in 2008 that allows schools to transfer $51 per student annually from the Capital Fund to the General Fund.

This can and could be done by the school board on June 30, 2008, June 30, 2009 and June 30, 2010.

According to the superintendent's report to the school board on April 12, enrollment on April 1 was 896 students.

Multiplying the 896 students by $51 would equal $45,696. This amount could have been transferred from the Capital Fund to the General Fund in 2008 and 2009.

This would have equaled $91,392.

On June 30, the school board could transfer another $45,696. If they would have done this for all three years, the total transferred would have been $137,088.

At this April 20 District Planning Meeting, Stender recommended raising activity fees by $1,200 for the students.

The total activity fees collected for the 2009-2010 school year was $17,415. The $1,200 would be a 6.9 percent increase.

Stender recommended increasing fees some at a time, so they wouldn't have to make a big increase in one year.

The $7,850 spent for a picnic table would probably have covered all activity fees for the elementary and junior high students. They wouldn't have had to pay anything, and maybe increases wouldn't have been needed.

The $45,696 that could be transferred to the General Fund on June 30 would help cover many expenses.

Remember, the superintendent is now also projecting a surplus of $208,760 for the 2010-11 school year.

Also, if the Capital Fund transfers would have been used for three years, there would have been $137,088 available for General Fund expenses. -- Jim Nelson, Frazee