Stillwater schools plot $8 million in cuts

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 1, 2012 - 11:36 AM

The school board will vote in March on a panel's plan to slash the district's 2012-13 budget.

A committee made up of Stillwater residents and school administrators has recommended up to 74 cuts the district can make to save $8 million next school year.

The cuts include eliminating athletic programs, increasing elementary class sizes, charging for all-day kindergarten and elimating fifth and sixth grade orchestra.

Several hundred people already opposed several of the proposals in crowded public hearings held last week at the district's junior and senior high schools.

The committee will present a final draft of its proposed cuts to the board on Thursday. The board will discuss the committee's recommendation Feb. 23 and vote on which cuts to make March 8.

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 upgraded several science and math labs at Stillwater Area High School and a $982,300-a-year technology levy for seven years.

Superintendent Corey Lunn set up the committee shortly after the three levies failed.

Following Lunn's advice to get a jump-start on budget cuts this school year, the board decided earlier this month to 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.

The committee has suggested continuing those cuts into the next school year.

The list the committee proposed this month is divided into three tiers, with each tier including about $4 million in adjustments. Tiers are ranked from those having the least disruption to students to those with having the most. A fourthe tier consists of items that could be considered should additional reductions be necessary.

Board members can choose individual items from each tier to get to the $8 million goal.

The report said the district could save $240,000 by cutting junior high school athletics. Spokeswoman Carissa Keister said the district is willing to enlist outside support to offer sports in the future. Eliminating its fifth- and sixth-grade orchestra programs will save the district $215,000, according to the report.

The committee also suggested increasing the maximum number of students in elementary classrooms from 24 to 25 students. That doesn't mean that every classroom will have 25 students, Keister said. That would save the district a possible $355,000.

By charging for all-day kindergarten or switching to an "all-day every other day" model, the district could save $100,000, according to the report.

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

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