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Paynesville Press - March 5, 2003

Administration proposes budget adjustments

By Michael Jacobson

School administrators presented over $140,000 in proposed budget adjustments to the school board for consideration last week.

The school district, which expects to see its enrollment drop by at least 20 students in 2003-04, has targeted making $150,000 in budget adjustments for its next school year.

"We do feel we need to look at some adjustments to our budget due to the fact that we expect to have 20 to 30 fewer students next year," said superintendent Howard Caldwell.

The last two years, a list of potential cuts was publicized, input was sought from the community, and then the board voted on the cuts, ranking them in priority. This time, administration submitted a list of cuts to the board for consideration.

Detailed budget adjustment chart

The administration's proposal includes $158,600 in budget reductions (including the elimination of three teaching positions), $49,100 in reinstatements and budget additions, and $34,000 in revenue enhancements. The bottom line for the proposal would be a savings of $143,500 to the school district.

The elimination of three teaching positions is the main component of the budget reductions.

In the elementary school, one teaching position would be eliminated though the structure would change considerably. This year, both the first and second graders are divided into four sections while the other grades are divided into three, yielding a total of 20 teachers, plus a full-time teacher that provides tutoring for Title I.

Next year, the administration proposes having three sections in all these grades. However, a Title II teacher would be split between first and second grades. This teacher would teach a section of reading and math in one grade in the morning and a section of reading and math in the other grade in the afternoon.

This would effectively give both first and second grades 3.5 sections. It would mean the students would be in smaller classes for reading and math (19 per class) and larger classes for other subjects (25 or 26 students per class). A similar arrangement would be used for the third grade, only here the Title I teacher would be utilized in a classroom. By giving the Title I teacher a section of reading and math in the third grade, class sizes here would be 20 or 21 students for reading and math and 27 or 28 students per class for other subjects.

Detailed class size chart

This means, the in-class teaching staff in the elementary school would effectively go from 20 to 19.5 FTE.

Kindergarten staffing is still not known. Right now, the district projects kindergarten enrollment between 70 and 80. If it is only 70, the district would likely offer only three sections, while 80 students would require four.

This year, with 76 students, kindergarten was divided into three sections. The program this year lost $4,000, Caldwell told the board, so fees charged for the all-day, everyday kindergarten program need to be raised. How much depends on if three or four sections need to be offered in 2003-04.

Other teaching position cuts are in the sixth grade, which would be reduced from four sections to three, and one teaching position in grades 6-12.

Caldwell told the board that the cut in sixth grade was something the administration backed strongly. "That seems to be quite obvious to us and is something we strongly suggest we do," said Caldwell.

So far, six teachers have indicated to the district that they intend to retire after this school year, meaning that no lay offs should be necessary. Instead, retiring teachers simply will not be replaced.

Other proposed budget cuts are cheerleading ($5,700) and the assistant cross country coaching position ($3,200).

The administration also recommended some reinstatements and budget increases for 2003-04. The largest item was seventh and eighth grade athletics, which were cut from the budget for the 2002-03 school year and run through Community Education.

The cost for reinstating seventh and eighth grade athletics is $43,300, including $28,500 for coaching salaries and $14,800 for other costs. The district would not reinstate three coaching positions - a seventh and eighth grade football coach, a track coach, and a wrestling coach. This saves $5,700 but requires a new position to help supervise at some away events. Administration proposed hiring an "athletic helper" to drive or supervise at certain away events as needed.

Other reinstatements were Jazz Band ($1,000), Pops Choir ($1,000), and school patrol advisor ($1,300). All three of these were reinstated this year thanks to donations. The school patrol advisor could be paid using the district's Safe School Levy and not out of the general fund.

All supplies and equipment would be kept the same except for a $2,000 increase in transportation for athletics, which faces increased costs.

Administration also proposed raising participation fees for seventh and eighth grade athletics to $55 per participant, an estimated revenue increase of $11,000. Athletic ticket prices and season passes would also increase, according to the administration proposal. The school board took no action on the proposal. Caldwell asked the board members to research the proposals and to suggest other measures if they liked.

Board member Tami Stanger said the district needed to look at staffing cuts in the high school and middle school before putting 30 students in an elementary classroom. She said her child is currently in a class of 26, which is "total chaos." Having class sizes of 23 or 24 in the middle school and 25 or 26 in the elementary school is "backwards as far as I'm concerned," she said.

In the high school, maybe we cannot afford to offer as many electives, added Stanger. "Maybe we have to start cutting electives," she said. "Maybe we can't support two languages."

Stanger also suggested two revenue enhancements: charging participation fees for Pops Choir and Jazz Band and charging a registration fee for parking by students at the high school. Charging for parking was approved by the board but then rescinded after administration concerns over how to implement it. Stanger said that a small fee for registering a car could be done with little work by the administration.

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