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District 833 School Board to see three options for cutting $2M

The bottom line for the District 833 School Board is that it must cut $2 million from the 2013-14 budget.

Getting to that $2 million has been a multi-step process for South Washington County Schools. It started with a committee process that looked at seven school budget categories. A second phase took budget options to the public in three recent meetings, online information and surveys.

The final phase begins at the Thursday, March 7, school board meeting where three budget-balancing options will be discussed. A preliminary budget is expected to be set March 21.

Final approval will be at the end of May, with the property tax levy set at the end of the year.

Like last year, the district is projected to spend $6 million from its reserves to balance the budget. That would leave a fund balance of 4.5 percent of the operating budget, which is within the district's policy of maintaining at least a month's worth of district expenses in reserves.

Two years ago, the fund balance percentage was 11 percent and 2013-14 would continue the spend-down of reserves.

If Gov. Mark Dayton's education budget is passed, it will bring an additional $49 per student to District 833, but the district administration, including Finance Director Aaron Bushberger, are not counting on that revenue increase and it's not part of the budget under discussion.

Under a new process led by Superintendent Keith Jacobus, all areas of the budget are being discussed simultaneously instead of separately over several months, as it was done in previous years.

The seven budget categories being reviewed include:

n Instruction includes teachers, special education, athletics and activities, and vocational education.

n School Support Services -- School administration, instruction support, administrative departments such as teaching and learning, media, staff development, tech support, guidance, counseling, security and paraprofessionals

n Operations and Maintenance -- Custodians and supplies, district maintenance, utilities and contracted services such as snowplowing

n Transportation -- Student transport and bus maintenance.

n Capital Budget -- Technology, materials, repair and improvement of facilities, health and safety and leases.

n District Support Services -- Administration, payroll, legal services, student information, communications and print center.

n Sites and Buildings includes building systems, remodeling, environmental standards, infrastructure technology and athletic and outdoor facilities.

There are three budget options being considered:

Option 1

The service level of instruction and current class sizes would remain the same.

School Support Services would be reduced to a lower service level by $670,000 and 11 full-time positions would be eliminated.

Operations and Maintenance would go to a lower service level with a savings of $330,000 and six full-time jobs eliminated.

Transportation would go to a lower service level by $475,000 by increasing walking distance to secondary schools by one-half mile to two miles, changing the start time for some schools from 7:55 a.m. to 7:35 a.m.

The Capital Budget would be reduced by $262,301.

District Support Services would be reduced by $445,000, including five positions.

Sites and Buildings' budget impact would be in future years.

Option 2

Instruction change would increase class sizes by one student for a reduction of $1.7 million and eliminate 27.12 full-time teachers.

School Support Services, Operation and Maintenances, Capital Budget, and District Support Services remain at current levels.

Transportation service changes would be the same as in Option 1.

The impact on Sites and Buildings would be in future years.

Option 3

Instruction would increase class sizes for the same savings as Option 2.

School Support Services, Operations and Maintenance and Transportation would not change from current levels.

Capital Budget would increase by $35,000 for allocations in buildings and departments.

District Support Services would be reduced for a savings of $445,000 and five positions eliminated.

Impact on Sites and Buildings would be in future years.

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.
(651) 459-7600