Bemidji Area Schools sees $5.2 million surplus for 2021-2022

“The influx of COVID relief funds has given our fund balance a much-needed boost. However, this funding is a temporary patch,” Superintendent Jeremy Olson said.

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BEMIDJI — The annual audit for the 2021-2022 fiscal year was presented and approved by the Bemidji Area Schools Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday.

Jon Roscoe from the accounting firm Miller McDonald spoke to the board about the district’s financial picture, taking into account its various rounds of ESSER funding and how they affect each fund balance.

The audit highlights district-wide revenues of $81.9 million with $76.7 million in expenses for 2021-2022, a $5.2 million surplus.

Information compiled by Superintendent Jeremy Olson stated the district had $71.4 million in operating revenue in 2021-2022, a decrease from $74.9 million in 2020-2021.

“This decrease can be attributed to a decrease in federal COVID relief funding used in the current year,” Olson wrote in a letter to the board.


He noted that 10% of revenue came from federal sources and 76% from state sources compared to 12% and 75% from each respective revenue source in 2020-2021.

In terms of general fund expenses, the district saw $69.2 million compared to $71 million in 2020-2021.

“The resulting surplus is due to the federal COVID relief funding that has been used to make up for lost enrollment-related revenue, keep existing staff employed and maintain continuity of operations,” Olson added.

A total of 82% of expenses were reserved for direct instruction and pupil support while 18% was spent on building overhead and maintenance, administration and support, while 85% of expenses were related to salary and benefit costs.

“This is typical of a school district as we are a people (and) services driven operation,” Olson said, “and our main function is to provide services to students.”

The audit noted an enrollment decrease of roughly 63 students by average daily membership, which was 4,702 in 2021-2022 compared to 4,765 in 2020-2021.

Clarifying its role in school funding, Olson said enrollment drives most funding formulas and plays a part in staffing allocations and building space needs.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the district experienced stable enrollment. The pandemic has had a significant impact on enrollment and the long-term impacts are as yet unknown,” Olson said.


Other details by the numbers:

  • General fund balances increased by $2.5 million due to the decrease in expenditures.
  • The district purchased $273,439 in new equipment and $557,707 for buildings and improvements.
  • The district paid roughly $2.2 million on its outstanding general obligation bonds and issued a $2.3 million long-term facility maintenance bond for roof repair at Bemidji High School.
  • All general fund balances total $14.3 million compared to $11.8 million in 2020-2021 and $7.9 million in 2019-2020.

“The influx of COVID relief funds has given our fund balance a much-needed boost. However, this funding is a temporary patch,” Olson mentioned. “The budget will need to be balanced going forward to prevent deficit spending and restore and maintain our fund balance.”
The audit will become available on the district website at

Other agenda items

The board unanimously approved an amendment to the second reading of its revised policy regarding public participation, which was placed after the agenda’s approval starting at Monday’s meeting.

Olson recommended clarification on when meetings are recorded, notably the board’s current practice to record regular meetings from call-of-order to adjournment. Special meetings and work sessions are not currently recorded.

The board had approved a first reading of new procedures and public comment placement at its February meeting, which allowed for public comment to be moved from the end of the meeting to the beginning and included language regarding the public’s right to comment on board policies versus personnel.

The full meeting can be viewed on the Bemidji Area Schools YouTube channel.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 17, in the district board room.

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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