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Another $11 million in cuts for District 834?

District 834 School Board has found itself in a similar situation as a year ago when it was tasked with cutting $6 million from the district's operating budget.

District 834 School Board recently held town hall style meetings with parents to discuss the district's current operating levy.

The current $11 million operating levy is set to expire at the end of next year.

District 834 School Board has not decided yet whether or not it will simply go for a renewal or try for a levy increase.

During the town hall meetings, District 834 School Board discussed with parents what its $11 million levy buys, and what cuts could potentially take place if the levy is not renewed.

"We wanted to reaffirm what the community investment is being used for," District 834 Superintendent Corey Lunn said.

If the operating levy is not renewed, the district would have to cut roughly 12 percent from its budget.

The budget adjustment list was compiled by 11 different cost center groups.

The groups developed a list of cuts that reflected an 18 percent reduction in District 834's operating budget.

Even if the levy is renewed, or approved at a higher amount this November, District 834 will still be tasked with making some reductions because of a slightly declining enrollment and decreases in state funding.

The cuts

The list of possible budget reductions for the 2014-2015 school year, if the levy is not renewed, include cuts in the areas of class sizes; student programming; learning interventions; facilities/operations; learning environment; curriculum, instruction and professional development; general administrative services; transportation; activities; and security.

Some of the specific cuts include: eliminating up to 50 teachers; eliminating free all-day kindergarten; restructuring or closing one elementary school; eliminating fifth and sixth grade band; eliminating up to 25 student support positions; and closure of the Oak-Land Junior High swimming pool.

"Many of the things on the cutting list brought people to our schools," Lunn said, "so the question becomes, 'How will these cuts affect our schools?'"

Looking for community support

Lunn said the biggest obstacle the district faces in getting a levy renewal is gaining community support. Last year the request for a levy increase failed by just 1 percent.

"We need to inform the public how their dollars are being used," he said.

District 834 plans to hold a number of meetings and send out information to voters to better educate them on the levy question.

"We need to get this in front of people in order to have a lot of conversations," Lunn said.

Lunn said District 834 School Board is hoping to decide between a levy renewal or a levy increase in April.

"This is my seventh year as a superintendent and my sixth levy campaign," Lunn said. "That's not why I wanted to be a superintendent.

"Operating levies used to be for extras, but now you need operating levies for the basics - we're going to have to figure a way out of this."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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