The middle school play, coaching for cheerleaders, a police liaison and staffing for an annual field trip to the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.

All these and more were erased from the Jordan School District's budget this week when the school board approved $440,000 in cuts for 2009-2010. If school is a buffet, said Board Chairman Dan Buresh, "we're getting down to the beans and rice."

For some, the cuts that will hurt the most are the loss of one elementary and one middle school classroom teacher, as well as a reduction in funding for the middle school's social worker.

"Because of the economic times we're in, I think children are facing a lot of challenges, and we need these social workers to be able to help them," said Kat Pass, a Jordan parent of three school-aged sons.

Jordan's cuts may seem small compared with those faced by some south metro districts: The Lakeville district, for example, must slim down by $6 million next year, though Lakeville had about seven times more students than Jordan last year. And school leaders across Minnesota are waiting to see how K-12 funding fares as the Legislature grapples with a nearly $5 billion state budget deficit that is expected to grow in the next few months.

But school officials in Jordan have already cut more than $600,000 in the past four years. And the school district, unlike most in Minnesota, has an extra local operating levy of only $1 per pupil.

The school board hopes to change that this year, even though 60 percent of Jordan voters rejected a school levy request in November. "It is going to take a humongous effort to educate people about what we are up against," Buresh said.

The school board waited until September to put a levy request on the ballot last fall, partly because members didn't think it could pass, Buresh said.

That left little time for levy supporters to campaign, but some district officials and parents also pointed out that the city of Jordan was proposing a 22 percent tax increase at the time. (It was later lowered to 9 percent.) "When voters saw that, there was no way our referendum could pass," Pass said.

In 2008, Jordan schools had the fifth-lowest effective tax rate out of 63 metro area districts, according to the nonpartisan Citizens League. Meanwhile, rankings from the St. Paul-based group put Jordan's city tax rate at third out of 117 metro area communities, behind Minneapolis and Belle Plaine.

But Jordan, on the suburban fringe, has less commercial and industrial property to share the tax burden than many of the cities on that list, said City Administrator Ed Shukle. And some of the city taxes that residents paid in 2008 were set aside to fund a new city hall, library and police station in the future, he said.

Regardless, city and school officials alike said they are already talking to each other about next year's taxes. "The city has needs. The school has needs," Buresh said. "We need to work together."

Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016