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Laundry list of cuts returns

District 88 faces budget cuts of $900,000 to $1.3 million for next year

March 4, 2011
By Kremena Spengler Staff Writer

NEW ULM - Unorthodox ideas - such as a four-day school week - may be getting the lion's share of attention as the District 88 School Board contemplates some $900,000 to $1.3 million in budget cuts to next year's budget.

But some perennial favorites - such as instituting a fee to park in the high school lot or raising activity fees - have also made it to the tentative chopping block.

Several scenarios of suggested cuts - ranging from $900,000 to $1.3 million, and each with its own price tag - are expected to be presented by administrators at the regular school board meeting next week.

Potential cuts and revenue increasing measures to choose from - suggested by administrators, the school board, and the public- were summed up by Superintendent Harold Remme in no particular order at a work session earlier this week.

They impact the full range of school operations: from districtwide operation and personnel, to supplies, textbooks, and equipment, the activities program, and miscellaneous other fields.

Some generate very little savings; others more substantial.

Here is a sampling of the ideas:

Districtwide operations:

Initiate a student parking fee for use of the main campus lot. One suggested amount is $25 per semester. However, many have argued that the enforcement costs would be bigger than the revenue generated by this step; and students would simply park in the street.

Eliminate a bus route or two.

A route cost is roughly $48,000; eliminating a route adds several minutes of travel time to four or five other routes. The average rural route is about 60 minutes long, and some are up to 75 minutes.

Eliminate busing for seventh and eighth-grade students to the former middle school for dress rehearsal productions.

Reduce districtwide positions by cutting: the superintendent's contract days, clerical days, a custodian, a maintenance engineer.

Increase rental fees for the use of facilities (would require modifications to the current policy).

Limit summer school sites to a wing at the high school and Jefferson school.

Transfer funds where possible.

Delay capital projects.

Charge for the school calendar publication (a $2 charge has been suggested).

Mail the August Focus 88 publication to families, rather than publish as a Journal insert.

Discontinue the professional learning team.

Personnel:

Increase class section sizes, cutting about three teaching contracts at Jefferson, two at Washington, and four at the High School.

Consider a combination of the activities director position with teaching or community education.

Some argue that a combination position was tried, and found unsuccessful, in the past.

The district now has 32 athletic offerings and 14 fine arts offerings for the AD to manage, they point out. They involve 115 employees of whom half are non-school employees. The AD schedules and supervises more than 250 events.

Consider a reduction of the time of the activities director and support personnel.

(A reduction from 210 days to 200 days has been mentioned.)

Adjust clerical contract length.

Impose a hiring moratorium.

Eliminate STABLE.

Seventy-five kids are in that program.

Go from two to one elementary principals.

Some say this idea raises the question, among others, of who would supervise Title I, technology and the increased duties associated with managing professional learning communities of teachers. These duties are now handled by the principals.

Other personnel ideas mentioned include: hiring only part-time staff; moving to a districtwide, rather than building-specific, media director; one elementary counselor for both elementary buildings; eliminating the positions of school resource officer, computer room paras, instructional improvement coordinator and testing coordinator; implementing a furlough program for employee groups; minimizing negotiating settlements; and reducing or eliminating summer contracts for counselors, the nurse and vocational agriculture instructors.

Supplies, textbooks, equipment:

Reduce the supplies budget by 10 percent.

This step would save $57,000.

Minimize textbook purchases by $70,000 to $120,000, also transfering trust fund money to cover purchases.

Activities:

Eliminate or initiate pairing of activities (such as cheer team and dance line).

Move all remaining seventh and eight-grade activities to Community Education (Math League, Pops Choir, play, jazz band).

Consider increasing activity participation fees.

That idea has raised the question of how it would be done. It would spell out huge increases, if done on a cost basis; but raise very little if done across the board, by $5 or $10, for example.

Explore co-op programing with non-public schools in non-athletic activities and events.

These are just some of many ideas - including some not mentioned much until now, such as a complete closure of the former middle school, or requiring teachers to work one or two extra-curricular events on a non-paid basis.

Many suggestions are likely to be rejected as impractical or insufficient; others may run into union opposition.

The obvious thought, however, seems to be that, after more than $5 million worth of cuts over the past seven years, what once appeared to be far-flung might soon become the norm.

 
 

 

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