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Lake Superior School Board hears possible cuts

The Lake Superior School Board is considering possible reductions to offset the predicted 2018-19 deficit of $692,000.

These reductions would be applied to the 2019-20 budget, which needs to be formally adopted by June 30 at the latest.

During a board workshop Tuesday, April 30, Superintendent Bill Crandall and business manager Sara Girard presented the board with levels of cuts that would reduce the general fund debt.

Possible cuts

The first round of cut options are the most likely. These include reductions totaling $272,000 to building and capital supplies, paraprofessional reductions, reducing the sixth-grade sections at William Kelley and Two Harbors high schools (both of which were increased due to large class sizes at the beginning of the year), custodial changes and bus route changes.

To tackle the remaining $420,000 deficit, cuts to sections of classes across the board depending on class sizes. For example, if a class has fewer than six students, it may be considered for reduction, depending on how necessary it is for graduation.

There's also a proposed districtwide 2 percent reduction in athletics, which would affect how many tournaments the teams could travel to and the number of coaches. Also on the board is asking the teacher union for half of the 2 percent set aside in the general fund budget for staff development. There's a vote scheduled on this topic in the next few weeks.

The district is also promoting a retirement incentive program. This program would provide teachers of retirement age with an optional incentive package. The replacement of these teachers would see an average savings of about $25,000. The total amount of teachers will seek the plan is yet to be determined.

These cuts take the deficit down to $250,000. At this point, Crandall said the cuts start affecting the classroom more directly. These cuts include reducing class sections, which would increase class sizes.

Classes — most likely electives — would likely be cut if they contain fewer than 12 students. These class reductions would also cut down teacher hours, which may lead to teachers shuffling between positions or buildings due to seniority rules.

"We'll have smaller offerings," Crandall said. "And if I'm a teacher and I found out my position is becoming a part-time position, ISD 709 is just 30 minutes down the road. And then we're trying to find someone to fill the part-time positions, which is always much harder to fill."

With this in mind, Crandall asked the board for some direction. This final round of cuts could get the deficit down to zero, but he said it would be a painful process.

Crandall noted if the board chose to deficit spend, it would push the problem to another year.

Too many elements unknown

There are a few other factors that could affect the 2019-20 budget.

The teachers' union is already considering the staff development funds question and will vote before the next school board meeting.

The staff is also in the process of selecting a health care plan. The health care plan choice could add more budget woes if enough staff select the more expensive plan.

There's also the question of state aid. Girard currently has a 1 percent increase in state aid included in the budget. Gov. Tim Walz and the state House are proposing a 3 percent increase in state aid. The Senate is proposing a 0.5 percent increase.

Girard's 1 percent included on the budget is mindful of a hopeful compromise. If the amount increases, it could help the budget concerns and reduce the number of cuts.

With these questions in mind, the board asked to continue looking at the budget before providing direction on the deepest cuts.

he budget will be addressed again at the meeting May 14 at William Kelley High School.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

(218) 834-2141
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