Stillwater schools get after $2 million in cuts

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2012 - 12:16 AM

Steps include a hiring freeze and higher athletic fees.

Stillwater public schools will implement an immediate hiring freeze and increase high school athletic fees this semester as part of an effort to cut more than $2 million from the district's budget, board members decided Thursday night.

The cuts will take effect as soon as Jan. 24.

The district faces a $10 million budget shortfall after voters rejected three levy proposals in November. Voters had been asked to replace an existing $997-per-student operating levy with one that would have provided $1,465 per student each year for seven years. They also rejected an $18.1 million bond issue that would have been used to upgrade several science and math labs at Stillwater Area High School and a $982,300-a-year technology levy for seven years.

Next month, a committee made up of community members and administrators will propose to the board how to cut an additional $8 million from the district's budget next school year.

On Thursday, the board approved 28 districtwide cuts that would result in $2,089,100 in savings. Those cuts include a hiring freeze that would save the district $159,000 and reducing building and department budgets by 10 percent to save $575,000.

Several of the cuts involve the district pulling money from one fund to pay for items in another fund, a provision allowed by new state laws. For example, the administration is proposing that the district could save $20,000 by transferring money made from renting district fields into its general fund.

Proposed fee increases on more expensive high school sports, meanwhile, could save the district up to $18,000. Currently, students are charged a flat fee of $150 to participate in a district sport. But athletic fees for several sports could cost from $15 to $50 more. The fee increase will occur based on a sport's operating expense to the district. More expensive sports, such as football and baseball, will have higher athletic fees.

In a separate vote, the board decided 4-3 not to raise athletic fees for its junior high schools.

"One of our goals is getting kids participating," board member George Hoepner said. "I think kids coming into junior highs are looking for niches, groups they can be with or a place to fit in other than the classroom. It seems to me that we should be on the side of how do we get the most kids to participate. We should try as long as we can to hold the fee costs as low as we possibly can."

Daarel Burnette II • 651-925-5032 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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