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District 833 considers $3.2 million in spending cuts tonight

District 833 administrators are recommending over $3 million in spending cuts for next school year.

School Board members will hear the recommendation for cuts totaling $3.2 million when they meet for a budget workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday at the District Service Center in Cottage Grove. No formal vote will be taken, but the meeting is open to the public.

The $3.2 million in spending cuts would result in 11 job reductions. Class size-ratios for the 2011-12 school year would increase by one-half student to save $675,000. Ratios in elementary school, except in early grades, will rise to 29 students, and it will rise to 32 students in secondary schools.

The budget would also gain $2.5 million if the district does not make its annual contribution to the fund that covers retirement benefits. The fund is fully vested, according to Finance Director Aaron Bushberger. The district is expected to approve a study this summer that would project the actual amount needed in the fund for the next two years.

Two additional lists of possible spending cuts developed by district staff were sent to School Board members but are not being recommended, Superintendent Mark Porter said.

Those proposals include eliminating elementary school band and orchestra and changing start times to save busing costs, totaling $1.3 million. To save an additional $4.1 million would require the district to freeze current salaries for all employees and increase class-size ratios by another one-half student.

The district currently has a $17 million fund of unallocated money and used $4 million from that fund to balance this year's budget.

There has been no increase in basic state education funding for two years, but district administrators say school expenses continue to rise. If some spending cuts are not made now, the district's reserve funds will be used up in the next two years.

Board members are concerned that the Minnesota Legislature, faced with a $5 billion state budget deficit, might cut K-12 education funding. That would put even more pressure on the school district budget.

The School Board will approve the 2011-12 budget in June. The district's current budget is roughly $156 million.

Check back for a story on School Board reaction to the budget proposal.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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