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Paynesville Press - March 30, 2005

School board reviews proposed budget cuts

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, March 22.

*The board reviewed proposed budget cuts for the 2005-06 school year, as presented by administration. The school district has targeted making $200,000 in cuts for the next school year, to continue to account for its declining enrollment. The district continues to graduate classes around 100 but have only 80 or so in kindergarten classes.

That loss in student numbers would mean a $128,800 decrease in state funding at the current per-pupil rate, superintendent Todd Burlingame told the board.

With the district having seven staff members announce their retirements so far, the bulk of their proposed budget cuts come from not replacing that staff. Administration proposed not replacing three teachers ($160,000) and not replacing a secretary position ($22,700), which totals $182,700 in budget reductions.

Administration also proposed adding another sixth class assignment ($4,050), bringing the prospective reductions to $178,650. (See related story.)

*The board approved a proposed Spanish class trip to Spain over part of the December 2005 holiday break and continuing another week into January 2006. The Spanish trip has previously been taken in June, after school was out for the summer.

Student representatives address-ed the board at its last two meetings, arguing that a winter trip would cost less money ($1,400 rather than $2,000 in June), would allow students to experience the culture outside the peak tourism season, would allow the students to attend school in Spain, and would allow them to experience a holiday celebration (New Year) in Spain. They also offered to pay for the substitute teacher cost for five days and assured the board that they would make up the five days of missed classes before they depart.

Besides, the students noted that the summer trip kept students from working and it would take place after some of them graduated.

Their two-week trip would leave right after Christmas, and the 15 students would miss a week of school.

The board approved the trip and accepted the students' offer to pay for a substitute teacher. Board members indicated that this might be a new precedent for school trips.

*The board approved a resolution asking to transfer part of its excess debt service levy to its capital fund. The district has been advised by its financial consultants that $112,500 could be transferred next year from its debt service levy, and more could be transferred in coming years.

This move requires the approval of the Minnesota Legislature.

The transferred funds would be dedicated for roof replacement. Total roof replacement would cost the district an estimated $2 million. Instead of continuing to patch the worst sections of roof, this transfer could enable the district to start replacing sections of roof, said Burlingame. This would be necessary if a section of roof developed a major leak.

The debt service fund is limited to five percent surplus. Without the transfer, the district's debt service levy would be reduced.

*The board was informed that the city intends to rezone its property on Mill Street (currently leased to Head Start). Burlingame intends to attend a public hearing on Monday, April 4, at 7:45 p.m. to learn more about this proposed rezoning.

*The board was informed that the Meet and Confer Committee is down to two proposed schedules for the 2005-06 school year. The major difference is that one contains a week-long spring break from Feb. 20 to Feb. 24. Both would start on Thursday, Sept. 1 - as long as the state does not prevent school starts before Labor Day - and both would have graduation on Sunday, June 4.

In order to create a week-long spring break, this option would lose some other vacation days: two days at Christmas (Dec. 23 and Jan. 2), a day in January, and a day in June. (The option without a spring break would end on Wednesday, May 31, while the spring break option would have school until Thursday, June 1..)

*The board approved another extension for Bob Bowden as a long-term substitute. This extension was for four days, until April 22.

*The board appointed board member Deb Glenz to represent the board in the teacher peer review process.

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