The Paynesville Area School Board met in a special session on Monday, Jan. 22, to review a list of potential budget cuts.
After nearly two months of preparation, the administration presented the board with 50 possible items for reduction, worth $686,000. The potential cuts were presented to the staff at each school on Monday afternoon and presented to the board, with explanation, on Monday evening.
The board approved a budget reduction process in November with the idea of cutting around $500,000 from next year's budget. That amount is the project deficit in the current budget.
On Monday, superintendent Howard Caldwell warned that $500,000 might not be enough, based on how the economy fares, what the state Legislature does, and how contract negotiations end up. For example, he said the rising cost of fuel would cost the district $75,000 more than expected this year.
"Most of these are obviously providing less of a service," he said of the potential reductions. "That's a given. I don't know how you do this without reducing services."
The next step in the budget reductions is for board to think about and research what these cuts entail. Suggestions for reductions can still be made to either the school principals, the individual school board members, or Caldwell.
Unless the board makes a change, a public hearing is expected to be held on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. At this time, the public will be able to address the possible reductions and give their input to the board.
After that each board member will have two weeks to rank the cuts. Caldwell will then compile their rankings to prioritize the list.
The board is expected to make their final decision on the cuts at their last meeting in February, which will be Tuesday, Feb. 27.
The school budget for next year does not have to be finalized until July 1, though, so additions and subtractions could be made until then if needed. "We need to keep an open mind and some flexibility," Caldwell told the board. "But the hard fact is we have to make reductions, and significant ones."
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