February 17, 2011 at 8:59 a.m.

North Branch School Board gets good financial news

North Branch School Board gets good financial news
North Branch School Board gets good financial news

Last week's meeting was a pleasant change from the norm, as the North Branch School Board actually got some positive financial news.

The district at the end of 2009 invested in an OPEB account through the sale of bonds; so that the district could aggressively invest in markets and be in a position to finance what are known as 'other post employment benefits (OPEB).' This account is now valued at $4.5 million and the district will be able to withdraw about $400,000 cash to support next year's budget (2011-2012).

Merle Waters, representing Wells Fargo Wealth Management Group, walked the School Board through the OPEB portfolio allocations and also agreed with a recommendation the Board was considering to reduce the cash target for the fund from 19 to 10 percent. North Branch's OPEB Fund new targets will be 10 percent cash, 38.7 fixed income, 38.7 equities and 12.6 percent other investments. Waters added, "This is in line with what we're seeing other districts doing."

North Branch's "rate of return" goal for the OPEB investments is 4.7 percent.

Waters said Wells Fargo is managing 12 OPEB clients, ranging from White Bear Lake Schools with $45 million to Milaca Schools at $3.8 million.

The Board also heard from Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton that local legislators are doing a good job staying in contact with her on education reform measures and pupil aid formula issues. Henton added that the district can continue to build its upcoming budget expecting no decline in state funding, but no increase either. She commended Senator Sean Nienow and Rep. Bob Barrett for "trying to help us."

On budgeting, the Board set a special meeting March 3 at 7 p.m. to hear budget recommendations from staff. The Board will hold a public hearing March 10 at 6 p.m. prior to the regular Board meeting (7 p.m.) to specifically take public comment on the budget. And, March 17, starting at 7 p.m., is a special meeting to act on budget decisions.

The meetings all take place at the south end of the old primary school on Grand Ave. which has been converted to the district's education offices and learning center.

Many donations were officially accepted by Board action: St. Jude Medical Foundation, St. Paul, MN contributed $10,000 towards the Robotics Team a national program provided jointly with Chisago Lakes High School; Climate Makers of Blaine ($100) and East Central Energy ($200) also contributed to the robotics team expenses.

Your submitted General Mills Boxtops generated about $4,000; Kemps' nickels program (milk jug caps) landed the district $500.

Fairview Health Services donated $800 and the Coca-Cola Bottlers Foundation gave $1,000 to sports and activities.

The Eddy Family Foundation of Big Lake donated $1,000 to the district's technology needs.

East Central Sanitation donated $100 to support the Community Education outdoor concert series in the park.


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