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Paynesville Press - January 30, 2002

Potential budget cuts made public

By Michael Jacobson

A list of 36 potential budget reductions, prepared by school administrators, was presented to the school board at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22. The potential items for reduction, which if approved would start in the 2002-03 school year, total over $600,000. Proposed budget reductions

According to the district's statutory operating debt plan, also approved on Tuesday, Jan. 22, the district will need to cut $500,000 again this year. (The district cut $500,000 from its budget last winter, which took affect this fall.)

As promised, the list of potential budget cuts includes a number of teaching positions. The list (see page 2) includes eliminating five teaching positions in the middle/ high schools and three and a half in the elementary school.

The cuts in teaching staff account for $415,000 of the possible $607,000 in reductions. Any staff reductions would increase class sizes.

In the elementary school, teaching cuts are proposed in kindergarten (a half-time position) and in grades one, two, and five. A third and fourth grade teacher were eliminated during last year's budget cuts.

In the middle school, both the sixth and seventh grade classes could be reduced to three sections.

The projected impact on average class sizes by these cuts is as follows:
2001-02 2002-03
Grade Class Size Class Size
Kindergarten 17 19
First Grade 20 25-28
Second Grade 16 26-27
Fifth Grade 23 25-26
Sixth Grade 23 31
Seventh Grade 25 31

Other possible staff reductions in the middle/high school include one music teacher, one math teacher, and another teacher from adjusting class sizes in all curriculum areas.

Other areas for possible reduction include transportation (a total of $59,500, including $27,000 for eliminating the noon buses used by half-day, everyday kindergarten); seventh and eighth grade athletics ($39,710); and a number of extracurricular programs, from the marching band and play productions to cheerleading and danceline to the speech teams and student council, homecoming, and school patrol advisors.

Many of these extracurricular items were proposed as reductions last winter as well, but were saved a year ago. Their fate may not be the same this year, as the board has less to work with. With the plan to cut at least $500,000, at most $100,000 worth of items will be retained by the school district.

The school board also held a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 28, to discuss the proposed cuts and to talk about alternatives. (More coverage of this meeting will be in next week's Press.)

The school board will listen to public input on the proposed budget cuts at a public hearing on Monday, Feb. 4, starting at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the high school.

After the public hearing, each school board member will rank the cuts individually on a scale from one (important to keep) to seven (first to go). These rankings will be compiled to yield an overall ranking that will be used to determine the final cuts at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

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