The Mabel-Canton School Board met on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 18. After opening the meeting, the board quickly went into closed session for just under two hours for preliminary consideration of allegations against an employee.

District Superintendent Jennifer Backer declined to give a statement on the nature of the allegations at this time.

Current budget

After re-opening the meeting after closed session, the board heard a report from district business manager Todd Lechtenberg who updated the board on the district's financial status for the current 2013-2014 school year.

"Overall, we are projecting about $163,000 less in revenue now than what we did when we did budgets," Lechtenberg said. "With that, our expenditures right now (are) actually on the positive side...we are right now projecting about $2,000 under budget.... So overall the board and administration has lowered expenditures right now to where we feel that expenses are under control and we feel we might actually pick up a few more dollars and be ahead of the plan."

Lechtenberg emphasized that much of the shortfall is due to less revenue coming in from outside agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Education, rather than an issue within the district. The district is also working to clean up an approximately $200,000 shortfall from the previous 2012-2013 school year.

"That dark area on your page (the shortfall), is what the district is still looking to cut," said Backer. "The district has some fluff that we need to reel back in . . . we think we can recapture a lot of the dollars that we have been using, which potentially was not in the best interest of our students and staff."

"I have to say that the staff have done a great job of coming to meetings, having discussions and really grasping the details of this budget and how we need to do a better job with it," she added. "There is some new positive with all this - we're spending lower this year than we have."

Backer also warned the board that the budget for 2014-2015, which administration is already preparing, is going to come with cuts. "We're working on it (the budget) now hoping for approval (from the board). This spring is going to be tough - but it's what we need to do."

Lechtenberg said he plans to keep the board up to date on the budget on a monthly basis. "We want to become more transparent," he concluded

Principal/superintendent reports

Backer gave the principals report in the absence of Principal Jeff Nolte, along with her superintendent's report.

Backer said she met with elementary school staff earlier in the day. "They have done a fantastic job of interventions in elementary school...whether they are academic interventions, behavior interventions - anything like that. We think that what we do here is right for kids," she said.

She also planned to meet on Monday, Feb. 24, with new teaching staff to discuss their evaluations with them as well as to talk about the highs and lows of being new teachers.

Backer reported enrolment numbers have fallen slightly to 254 from the 258 at this time last year. However, she reported that earlier in the day they had "enrolled three kids back" into the district.

Legislative session was slated to begin this week and Backer said she will be going to the capitol to visit with local legislators in the future. "One on the biggest things on the docket right now is special education funding - we're not getting what we're promised and you will be hearing a lot about that," she told the board members.

Another issue will be some minor discussion regarding tuition billing. Backer noted that the tuition billing reversed to us (from Iowa to Minnesota) is quite high. "We're wondering why that is," she said. "Also bullying prevention and intervention is on there."

Other business

• The board unanimously approved the second reading of policy 714, which asks for a general fund balance of 15 to 20 percent. The proposed policy will not be made official district policy until it's third reading - likely next month.

• The board also approved the use of a Public Data Request Form. Backer explained the form would create a paper trail for where any public information is going, when requested, whether it is financial information or human resource records.

• The board voted unanimously to make Chris Loppnow the board's MSHSL (Minnesota State High School League) representative and to appoint Jeff Rein as the Community Education Committee representative.