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District 833's $1.2M budget moves could affect special education, activity fees, other programs

District 833 School Board members did their math homework at last week's meeting, adding and subtracting spending to tentatively approve $1.2 million in budget cuts and changes for the 2012-13 school year.

The list of budget adjustments includes adding $150,000 from the Community Education budget and adding $300,000 in state aid to the general fund.

Budget cuts include reducing contracted special education services by providing the same services within District 833 to save $500,000.

The proposed cuts did not sit well with Michele McAlister, of Woodbury, who sits on on the district's special education advisory committee. She read a letter to the board after questioning whether the changes will negatively affect special education students.

Board member Jim Gelbmann also said he's concerned about special education cuts and doesn't want reduced services.

Other budget changes include asking activity directors at Woodbury, Park and East Ridge high schools to consider raising athletic and co-curricular student fees and find ways to reduce expenses by $100,000. Any fee changes will need board approval, said Superintendent Mark Porter.

Keith Ryskoski, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction, said activity directors are studying the impact on students, especially if there are additional fees from booster clubs.

Parents need to know ahead of time what the total cost will be, said board member Marsha Adou.

Students are not required to spend money beyond district fees, Ryskoski said.

Board member Ron Kath wants the district to look for new revenue by selling ads to be displayed in athletic facilities.

The district is also directing the buildings and grounds department to cut $40,000 and school discretionary budgets across the district will be reduced by $60,000.

Kath said he is glad the board agreed not to increase class sizes by one-half student next year.

The district has been using reserve funds to balance the budget for three years, but each year the amount needed has gone down, Kath said.

Adou said she wanted to cut even more money from the budget beyond $1.2 million.

Other suggestions from the budget committee did include saving $120,000 by cutting the number of teachers-on-special-assignment who do not have a classroom.

"That doesn't mean they are not essential," said Porter, adding that some are working on curriculum.

Board chairwoman Leslee Boyd said she, too, wanted other suggested budget cuts on the committee's list discussed.

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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