Viewpoint: District 834 responded by becoming leanerOn March 8, we voted on a final budget adjustment list for the 2012-13 school year.
By: District 834 School Board, Woodbury Bulletin
On March 8, we voted on a final budget adjustment list for the 2012-13 school year. You can view the list of budget adjustments on the district’s website, www.stillwater.k12.mn.us. Due to tight fiscal controls and our immediate budget actions we were able to reduce the cuts from $10 million to $6.3 million. This allowed us to avoid for one year some very painful cuts to programs and people. Unfortunately, this is a temporary reprieve, as future budget reductions will be necessary next year and in the years to come.
The board would like to thank all of the citizens of the school district for their contributions and for the manner in which they have conducted themselves. The process has been difficult, but respectful. In times like these, it is vitally important that we all pull together to meet the challenges hand-in-hand.
Decisions to adjust our budget were not made lightly. To help you understand the process, we’ve outlined the timeline for you in the paragraphs to follow.
In September, before the levy vote and with the knowledge we would be cutting the budget regardless of whether the levy passed or failed, the administration and the board announced a hiring freeze for all positions except teachers. In late October the board and the teachers union agreed to the most conservative contract in the past 40 years reflecting the economic situation and the desire to communicate to the public BEFORE the levy vote what the citizens were voting for in November. The money was not going to employee groups, but was directed to the classroom.
In November, the Budget Adjustment Advisory Committee (BAAC) was organized and the budget adjustment process began. Tom Lehmann, school board treasurer, served as the board liaison to this committee. Over the past six months the committee met eight times to consider possible budget reductions. The list that was compiled included more than 200 potential line items to be prioritized into four tiers. The committee, which was composed of 40 community leaders and staff, worked tirelessly to help the board prioritize the items and recommend cuts. We thank them for their work and their contributions. After the failed levy the board and school district leaders took immediate action to identify and cut $2 million from the current year’s budget. The direction the board gave to the administration included two criteria: (1) moving forward, everything was to be considered – nothing was sacred; and (2) protect the classroom from cuts if at all possible.
In January, the board began reviewing possible budget adjustments line by line. We kept parents and staff involved in the process by holding 15 public meetings – one in each of our schools - to review the budget cuts and gather feedback. Two public forums were held in January with more than 400 people in attendance, and more than 70 speakers addressed us with their concerns and questions. We also read through thousands of comments posted on the district’s website and sent to us by email. Throughout the process we have been committed to providing everyone a voice and opportunities for their concerns to be heard.
In February, in addition to our regular board meetings, we also held two full day learning sessions on Feb. 10 and 21 to engage in deep discussions on many of the items on the possible budget cut list.
On March 3, the board met for several hours to review the final budget cuts. Last night, March 8 we voted on the cuts. As always, all of the meetings were open to the public and were well attended.
The school district and the board will continue to look for budget savings in the future. There is more work to be done and the board is committed to completing this arduous task. The budget reductions have reduced our fix costs by approximately 3 percent. The school district is much leaner than it was a few months ago, and we are working closely with surrounding mayors, city councils, state representatives and county officials to find additional savings through shared services.
We look forward to continuing to work closely with the community to have the best school district in the state of Minnesota.
District 834 School Board members George Dierberger, Mike Ptacek, Tom Lehmann, Kathy Buchholz, George Hoeppner, Natalie Fedie and Natasha Fleischman