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Task force finalizes budget cut list for school board

The District 833 Budget Adjustment Task Force met Monday, March 2, and agreed to send the school board $5.8 million in suggested cuts in the 2009-2010 budget.

The task force also sent two more lists, one containing possible cuts worth $1.2 million and one containing cuts worth $1.2 million for a total of $7.5 million in possible budget cuts.

The School Board plans to take the suggested cuts into account to make $5 million in actual cuts. The board will discuss budget cuts at the March 5 workshop.

Superintendent Tom Nelson said making $5.8 million in cuts on the first list would put the district in good shape. An additional $4.2 million would be taken from the districts' fund balance of unallocated money reducing the total budget by $10 million.

The district is also expected to get $825,500 in federal stimulus money for special education that can be used to offset what it already spends. When subtracted from the $8 million the district pays to subsidize special education, the federal money would go to the general fund.

The task force is also recommending the board not make its annual $2.5 million contribution to the $31 million Internal Service Fund that pays for retiree benefits. The district has 30 years to make up the one-time payment.

Board Member Ellen Ayers, also a task force member, said she did not initially support using money intended for the retiree fund but would support it if there is plan to pay it back.

Nelson said the amount to be paid into the fund might change after a study this summer by a consultant who will look at the retiree list and determine the actual cost over the next two years.

Other cuts on the "A" list include $100,000 from the activities budget, $115,000 budgeted for an assistant principal at East Ridge High School and $125,000 budgeted for travel and fees for conferences and seminars.

The "B" list includes $301,543 from discretionary budgets. The "C" list includes a $550,000 cut, which would come from reducing part-time positions at elementary schools, a $170,000 cut from the budget for elementary school media center clerks and a $300,000 cut, which would come from reducing part-time positions at secondary schools.

Task force member Al Kean said the first list and the supplemental lists reflect what the task force discussed, "I support it," he said.

The task force is also sending budget-cutting guidelines to the board that include minimizing cuts that directly impact classrooms, maximizing efficiency, protecting enhancement programs added in recent years such as elementary orchestra and controlling employee salaries.

On the first tier of recommended cuts is an already approved class-size increase by an average of one-half student.

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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