The Lake Superior School Board has started considering possible reductions to offset the predicted 2018-19 deficit of $756,000.
These reductions would be applied to the 2019-20 budget, which needs to be formally adopted by June 30 at the latest.
During the meeting Tuesday, April 2, Superintendent Bill Crandall presented the board with a list of line items that could reduce the general fund debt by $552,000. The items included reductions such as three temporary teacher positions, which would not need to be replaced. These teachers were added at the beginning of the year to add one more section to the sixth-grade classes at William Kelley School and Two Harbors High School. There would also be a districtwide scale-back of paraprofessionals by two positions. So far, no classes are being suggested for elimination.
Crandall also suggested a different way of budgeting building supplies and capital supplies. This formula would consider a "weighted average daily membership," looking at each school building, and providing a supply budget based on that number.
There would be an overall district reduction of the building supplies budget by $166,000 and a capital supplies reduction of $48,000. "Capital supplies" include building furniture, curriculum and consumables such as workbooks or science kits that need to be replenished; "building supplies" include general office items.
The district will also have a new source of revenue as they have asked the Head Start provider to begin paying rent for use of their facilities.
"For many years we've been providing them with a space, and we had a conversation with them about changing that," Crandall said. "So we looked at similar schools with similar situations, such as Eveleth-Gilbert, and decided that for the square footage they use, we'd ask for rent of about $3,800. So that's some additional revenue coming in."
The administration needed board direction about whether to pursue the development of a retirement incentive program and whether to approach the teachers' union with a staff development budget reduction.
The retirement incentive program would provide teachers of retirement age with an optional incentive package. The replacement of these teachers would see an average savings of about $20,000.
"So if a teacher we're paying a salary of $80,000 because they're at the top level of salary and benefits retires, and we replace them with a teacher receiving $60,000, there's that $20,000 in savings," Crandall said. "If we have three people retire, then that would be $60,000 worth of savings."
The board agreed to allow administration to pursue the creation of a retirement incentive.
Regarding staff development fund reductions, 2 percent of the general fund is set aside for staff development.
"If we went to the teachers' union and asked them to vote to reduce it by 1 percent, that would be a reduction of roughly $97,000," Crandall said.
The board agreed with the direction.
Crandall stressed that "nothing is finalized" with the reduction suggestions; they are initial proposals he believes the administration can easily achieve. As the cumulative total of these suggested reductions is $200,000 away from making up the total deficit, Crandall said more suggested reductions could still be on the way.
"We'll have a better idea of exactly where we are at our board workshop in a few weeks," Crandall said. "But we wanted to come back to you with these items we feel confident we can move forward with."