The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District approved a series of controversial budget cuts Tuesday night in an effort to help meet a $6.9 million deficit.

The cuts included layoffs of about a dozen district employees, replacing retiring teachers with younger, less expensive staff and reducing the amount of staff development offered. But it avoided some of the more drastic measures such as laying off teachers or freezing their salaries and eliminating all-day kindergarten -- items that community members asked board members to spare.

The approved cuts will save the district about $4 million. The district is facing a $6.9 million budget shortfall for the 2011-12 school year, but the board is using the district's fund balance, or savings, to cover the remaining $2.9 million.

Rory Sanders, the district's teachers' union president, said teachers were pleased the board didn't freeze salaries or cut teachers.

"The decision last night is perceived as a win-win for everyone, particularly our students," Sanders said. "What happened last night assures that teachers will get a fair process of bargaining going forward."

Superintendent Patty Phillips said she was happy the district didn't have to cut all-day kindergarten or increase class sizes.

"We have made budget reductions of $21 1/2 million in the last six years," she said Wednesday. "It's always an emotional heart-wrenching process. This year was more challenging than most because there were no easy choices.

"Our board and our staff really put our students at the focus in everything we do and especially so when we're balancing limited resources. I think we all feel relieved that the decision is over and hope we get some good outcomes from this."

Administrators had proposed three lists to the board in February with up to 29 cost-cutting measures. The final list of cuts approved Tuesday night had 20 items, all of which were taken from the original three lists.

The 12 1/2 layoffs will save about $797,000 while $300,000 was cut from the staff development fund.

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695