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Paynesville Press - May 17, 2006

School board passes budget increase for 2006-07

By Michael Jacobson

After five years of budget cuts, the Paynesville Area School District will increase its budget - albeit slightly - for 2006-07.

To get out of statutory operating debt and to compensate for the loss of funding due to declining enrollment, the district had cut its budget for five straight years.

In 2006-07, the district is proposing to increase its budget by $7,800, which statistically is akin to keeping the budget static. In a $8.6 million general fund budget, $7,800 represents a 0.09 percent increase (yes, a 0.0009 increase).

Originally, administration proposed a $56,000 budget increase for 2006-07, which was quickly cut back to a $42,000 proposed increase and then dropped even lower.

The school board approved spending increases of $74,900 last week with budget reductions of $67,100, totalling a $7,800 net increase in the district budget for next year.

Spending increases include: another special education teacher ($36,200); 8.375 sixth class assignments for teachers ($35,500); and restructuring the elementary and district offices ($3,200).

Budget reductions are: savings for replacing three experienced teachers ($38,500); staff development ($10,000, still pending); supply cuts ($5,050); food service utilities ($4,225, switched to food service account); Community Education utilities ($3,125, switched to Community Education); noon supervision ($2,600, switched to food service); special education secretary ($2,500); and middle school paraprofessional reduction ($1,100).

The cut to staff development must also be approved by the teacher's union. The district can budget less than two percent of its foundation aid for staff development if the local teachers agree. The district has done this for several years.

Should the teachers not agree to this, the board directed that all the budget adjustments be brought back to the board.

With the budget increases, the district plans several new curriculum offerings at the high school next year, including college-credit classes in calculus and macroeconomics.

The district will also be implementing a new policy that limits juniors and seniors to only one study hall (thus requiring all those sixth-class assignments for teachers, who normally teacher five periods and have a duty period and a prep period).

In the administration's initial budget adjustment proposal in April they suggested hiring a part-time (80 percent) math teacher at the middle school/high school, but this was later trimmed from the proposal.

Some budget reductions were added to the proposal before last week's school board meeting, including the $5,050 supply cut, the utility transfers (to be paid by other school accounts, not the general fund), and noon supervision (also to be paid by another school account).

Board member Deb Glenz protested the supply cut ($1,450 at the high school, $800 at the middle school, $1,400 at the elementary school, and $1,400 to activities). She said that the athletic budget could spare little else before they would have to cut events and voted against the budget proposal, saying she could not vote for another cut to athletics.

She also questioned why the supply cut was needed at all, since the original proposal by the administration called for a much larger spending increase ($50,000).

The board also discussed discipline with high school principal Lorie Floura before approving the budget proposal. Instead of having two teachers handling minor discipline matters during their duty periods - one in the middle school and one at the high school - only one will be available to assist Floura next year. She thought she could make it work, but a back-up plan would be to approve another sixth-class assignment for a teacher to help with discipline issues. The board informed her they supported this, if needed.

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