Stillwater begins cutting $10 million from school budget

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 3, 2011 - 7:44 PM

Changes could include increases in activity fees, cuts in staff and a higher student-to-teacher ratio.

Stillwater school administrators this month are beginning to decide how to cut $10 million from the district's budget by next school year.

The potential cuts are the consequence of all three of the district's ballot questions seeking tax increases failing during the Nov. 8 elections.

District administrators have said they may have to cut staff, increase athletic and activities fees and increase the student-teacher ratio.

"Nothing is sacred," board member George Dierberger said. "We're going to protect the classroom as long as possible."

The board asked voters to OK: replacing an existing $997 per student operating levy with one that would have provided $1,465 per student each year for seven years; an $18.1 million bond that would be used to upgrade several science and math labs at Stillwater Area High School, and a $982,300-a-year technology levy for seven years.

Less than a week after all three proposals were voted down, the school board appointed a "budget adjustment advisory committee" made up of district staff, parents and community members. The committee has met twice and will meet again on Tuesday as well as on Dec. 20 and Jan. 26. The committee's meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be open to the public.

The district will hold public hearings at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 17 at Oak-Land Junior High School and at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 at Stillwater Junior High School. Board members and committee members will attend. After the meetings, the committee will be able to revise any of its recommendations before presenting them to the board in February.

"For us as a board, to do the cuts without asking for the community's input would not be the right way to go," Dierberger said. "We want to engage the public in everything we do so that they're part of the gain and the pain."

The board will vote on the committee's recommendations in February.

"This is not impossible," Stillwater Superintendent Corey Lunn wrote in a letter posted on the district's website. "I have been in these shoes before -- however, it will not be easy. We need to reprioritize what we can do, recognizing that we will not be able to continue to provide the students and community with the same opportunities we've come to expect. The key to our continued success will be to take this challenge and turn it into a tremendous opportunity."

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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