South Washington schools make $1.2 million in cuts

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 30, 2012 - 11:36 PM

The board avoided larger cuts to the district's music program.

South Washington Schools' special education and athletic departments will have to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from next year's budget, the school board has decided.

The cuts are part of $1.215 million the school board decided to trim last month from its proposed $154 million 2012-13 school year budget to avoid a deficit. The board also is using more money from reserves to keep from having to cut more. The current school year's budget is $150,368,167.

"We're strategically bringing our fund balance down to protect our class size and protect the core subjects we've always put pride into," said Board Member Ron Kath.

The athletic department will either increase its fees or cut program spending to provide $100,000 in savings for the district, administrators said.

The special education department will cut $500,000 by ending contracts with outside consultants and instead provide those services in-house.

Many of the cuts have not gone over well with the district's families.

"You may not like the ... tone of my memo or speech, but I think the board needs a wake-up call when it comes to special education," Michele McAlister, a district parent and member of the district's special education advisory group, told the board before its March 22 vote.

"Our children are indeed special and deserve better from this administration. Even minor changes affect them and, through them, their families. What is proposed to you in this budget is bigger than it looks on paper. In the end we do not get to make the decision. You do. But you should do so judiciously."

The board's policy is to save anywhere from 5 to 9 percent of its general funds as reserve funds at the end of each year. But projections last year showed that the district wouldn't meet that target.

The district has received a dwindling amount of money from state and local tax revenues in recent years.

Administrators began in November gathering comments from community and staff members about how to make the cuts. A budget review team presented a final list of $2 million in cost savings to the board on March 8.

After several families protested at a public hearing, the board rejected several other proposed cuts that would have required increasing the district's class sizes and laying off some middle and high school music teachers. Those cuts would have saved the district more money.

"There were several other things on the list that came out of the budget committee that I think had real potential," Board Chairwoman Leslee Boyd said before the board voted on the final cuts. "I actually wish we were able to make some additional things happen on here to continue to provide as much savings as possible to taxpayers."

As part of the final list of cuts made by the board, the district will use $300,000 in state aid to fund several pilot projects and will cut building and grounds, school discretionary and district administration spending.

To view the entire list of cuts, visit www.startribune.com/a1159.

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

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