Stillwater school officials said Tuesday that they won't have to slash the district budget by as much as they had feared.
Instead of the estimated $8 million in cuts, administrators say they'll have to cut $4.3 million, with some cuts spread over the next several years.
"Budget forecasting is much like forecasting the weather," said Ray Queener, the district's assistant superintendent. "We can tell with certainty what it was like yesterday, we have a pretty clear understanding of what it will be like today, but once we look too far past tomorrow, it becomes very difficult to predict."
The earlier proposed cuts, which included axing the district's elementary music ensembles and junior high school athletic teams, were in response to three levies that failed in November.
Residents voted against replacing 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.
After the vote, Superintendent Corey Lunn said the district would have to cut $10 million from its budget next school year. With the approval of the board, administrators cut $2 million from this year's budget to reduce the cuts they would have to make next school year.
On Friday, however, administrators said projections changed after the books on the 2010-11 school year were closed, some legislative changes were proposed and a revised 2011-12 budget was submitted.
"While the long-term financial challenges haven't changed, we are in a better situation for the coming year," Lunn said. "This short reprieve will provide the time we need to work with staff and community to plan for needed program and school changes.
"But the fact remains -- the budget challenges we face are real and will not go away."
The district still anticipates an $8.5 million budget deficit in the 2013-14 school year and an addition $14 million deficit in 2014-15.
A new list of proposed cost-saving measures, which will be discussed at the Feb. 23 board meeting, has been crafted by administrators. The board is expected to vote March 8 on which changes they will make.
To see the list, go to startribune.com/a1047.
Daarel Burnette II • 651-925-5032 Twitter: @DaarelStrib