Washington County school districts eye possible teacher cuts

School leaders ponder worst-case budget scenarios.

Teaching positions would be eliminated in both the South Washington County and Stillwater Area school districts under tentative budget-cutting measures presented to school board members in recent weeks.

For South Washington County, the changes would affect the upcoming school year, but could be eased by an infusion of new state aid to schools.

Stillwater’s predicament, projected for the 2014-15 school year, is tied to the potential expiration of an $11-million-per-year levy, and could be resolved later this year by voter approval of a new levy. A proposal is now in the works.

Board members in the two districts went over the respective plans during separate meetings earlier this month.

South Washington County is considering a $2 million budget-cutting package that could trim as many as 22 classroom teaching positions, Barbara Brown, a district spokeswoman, said last week. Also in play are transportation cuts that could see the district lengthening bus-service boundaries for middle-school students from 1 mile to 1.5 miles from school, leaving anyone living within 1.5 miles to have to walk or arrange a ride.

District leaders decided earlier this year that the $2 million in cuts were needed to meet the district’s goal of preserving a fund balance equal to 5 percent to 9 percent of its total annual budget. Three budget-cutting proposals were presented to residents and staff members, and a recommendation made to the board on March 7.

About $1.46 million of the $2 million in cuts would come in the area of prekindergarten to grade 12 instruction, which now consumes about two-thirds of the district’s budget. The $1.46 million would be equal to 22.4 full-time-equivalent positions, some of which could be lost to attrition, Superintendent Keith Jacobus said.

School support services, an area that includes counseling, staff development, clerical support and school security, would be kept at current levels. Activity fees also wouldn’t be increased as part of the plan.

Just how severe the cuts may be, however, depends largely on the outcome of a state legislative session that could deliver additional funding to schools. The state’s budget talks are pivotal to South Washington County’s planning because its budget-cutting package assumes no change in state funding, yet the school board learned at the March 7 meeting that the district could gain $850,000 in per-pupil aid if the governor’s K-12 funding proposal is approved.

Brown said teacher cuts also could be blunted by enrollment increases.

School districts typically adopt their final budgets in June.

The school board is expected to give preliminary approval to the budget cuts on Thursday.

Meeting set for Tuesday

The district also is hosting a community meeting on the proposal at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, in the Cottage Grove Middle School cafeteria. A PowerPoint presentation on the plan is available on the district’s website.

On March 7, Stillwater put the final touches on an $11 million budget-cutting plan that officials first outlined during two town hall meetings last month.

District leaders have said that residents should know what’s at stake in 2014-15 if voters fail to renew a $996-per-student levy set to expire in June 2014.

50 teacher positions in play

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