School Board elects to transfer funds from ECFE to the general fund

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    The Crookston School Board approved a resolution at their special meeting this week for the transfer of $200,000 in funds from Early Childhood Family Education to the general fund pending the approval of the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education. The transfer allows the district to be less restricted when utilizing the funds and the ECFE fund has been in the pattern of ending each year with an approximate $30,000 surplus which justified the transfer proposal.

    The board directed Superintendent Jeremy Olson to use the money transferred, if approved by the MDE, to go toward school construction should the district realign Highland Elementary School to accommodate moving preschool there.

    When introducing the agenda item, Olson told the board and the audience, which was made up primarily of high school students in Sutton Junkermeier’s Social Studies class, that it was “highly unusual” to get the opportunity to transfer from one fund to another but COVID regulations were allowing such transfer until general audit time. Looking at the ECFE restricted fund balance of $230,000 and finding the surplus pattern allowed Olson to provide four different options for the board to consider. 1) They do nothing and the restricted funds would remain with ECFE. 2) Transfer $150,000 to the general fund and leave $80,000 with ECFE. 3) Transfer $175,000 to the general fund and leave $55,000 with ECFE. 4) Transfer $200,000 to the general fund and leave $30,000 with ECFE.

    Based on proposed construction projects, the fact that the ECFE restricted fund showed a pattern of surplus and that the fund transfer wouldn’t affect ECFE programming, Olson recommended option 4.

    Board member Dave Davidson asked how much it costs to operate ECFE each year and was told by District Finance Manager Laura Lyczewski that last year’s revenues were $74,000 and expenditures were approximately $45,000 resulting in a surplus for at least the last three to four years. Board chair Frank Fee asked Olson if there was construction to realign Highland to accommodate preschool there if ECFE would suffer anything out of their budget and Olson replied that they could reevaluate ECFE programming and possibly increase it.

    “We’ve invested heavily into preschool and it has paid off very well for us as we have record numbers in preschool,” Olson explained. “How do we make ECFE and preschool even more at the front and center?”

    Davidson then asked fellow board member Mike Theis, who motioned to accept option 4, why he chose that option and Theis replied that it would free up restricted funds, he’s in favor of the proposed construction, in eight years time ECFE could have that money back again if the surplus continues, and that an addition at Highland would be a “real asset” for the district and “good for young kids.”

    The transfer of funds motion and the resolution that will be sent to the MDE passed unanimously.

Sutton Junkermeier's students filled the high school choir/orchestra room during the special School Board meeting to listen and learn