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Viewpoint: Continuing School District 833's budget discussion

Every day we are being bombarded with the latest news about our economy. Most of this news is not very good.

It seems that as each day passes, our national economy slips further into recession with no real end in sight.

The national economy affects our state's economy, our local communities, our companies, our families and, in the end, us.

School districts are not immune to what is happening all around us. The issues a school district faces may be somewhat different, but we are in the middle of this crisis right along with everyone else.

When the state of Minnesota has financial problems, ISD 833 has financial problems. We are very dependent on the state for our fiscal health.

This winter, the district's school board put in place a Budget Adjustment Task Force (BATF) to examine our potential fiscal problems and bring back to the school board some recommendations on how to adjust our 2009-10 budget to weather the fiscal storm our nation and state are experiencing.

This group was made up of parents, teachers, administrators, members of the District Citizen's Finance Committee, support staff and students.

They met for five consecutive Monday evenings in February and early March and reached agreement on what to present to the school board.

It was a privilege to work with this dedicated group. The major recommendations and guiding principles for decision making of the BATF can be summarized as follows:

1. The district is in good financial shape and we should use some of our current fund reserves to help weather the financial crisis.

2. Some budget reductions need to be made at this time, but those reductions should not be targeted at the classroom level.

3. Budget reductions should be maximized in areas of operational efficiencies.

4. The district needs to freeze / control compensation increases.

5. The district should not dismantle current and future program opportunities for our students.

The BATF put together a list of budget adjustments that correlated closely with these recommendations and have forwarded this list to the School Board for action.

The board will now examine the recommendations and lists provided by the committee.

A school district expenditure budget is made up of roughly 85 percent personnel costs. We are a very labor intensive organization.

We cannot control our budget unless we control our labor costs. School employees are definitely not overpaid, but this is not a normal time in our history.

It cannot be business as usual for a school district when we are faced with enormous fiscal problems.

District 833 has been well managed. We have ample reserves to help cushion these budget woes.

These reserves will not last very long if we do not plan and take aggressive action to weather this storm.

I know in a few years things will look much better, but we need to get through to better days without impairing our children's education.

I thank the Budget Adjustment Task Force for their leadership on these issues.

It is now time for the school board and I to do our part and resolve the budget issues for the future success of District 833.

Nelson is School District 833 superintendent and can be reached at