Robbinsdale school officials are recommending cuts in the district's administration and teacher layoffs to eliminate a $5.7 million district budget deficit looming for the 2010-11 school year.

The budget proposal calls for, among other things, laying off behavior specialists, reducing the numbers of teachers on special assignment, trimming the buildings and grounds budget, eliminating the practice of carrying over school supply budgets from one year to the next, and eliminating two high-level administrative positions.

District officials noted that the cuts were weighted toward administration and away from the classroom. But classrooms won't be exempt: The proposal presents options to the school board that would eliminate as many as 29 teachers.

One set of recommendations -- to severely reduce elementary school music and art programs -- was removed from the proposal that will go to the board for a final decision. District superintendent Aldo Sicoli said the board chose to keep those programs at full strength, at least for now.

"At this time, we felt that arts is really important for students," he said. Still, elementary and secondary band programs are listed by the district as areas that would be considered for future cuts should a bleak school funding picture worsen during the current legislative session. Since current district budget projections are based on status quo funding from the Legislature, further cuts could be required if state education aid is reduced.

Next time, it's all fair game

"We have to be prepared to research all kinds of possibilities," Sicoli said. "Everything's going to be on the table in the future." He said that in the event of further cuts, the district might also have to take money out of its budget reserve, which is projected to total $5.9 million by the end of the school year.

District officials were aided in preparing their budget list by an accounting error that undercounted $423,000 in state aid for next year. They are also looking at disposing of two district buildings that are used to house district auxiliary programs. By closing or selling those properties, officials figure they can save $550,000 a year in operations costs. Another proposal calls for increasing high school activity fees by $10, which would raise a modest $20,000 in additional revenue. District department heads will also be expected to comb their departments for additional savings to the tune of $200,000 this year, and another $200,000 for the 2010-11 budget year.

A district meeting to discuss the proposed cuts will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, in the third-floor board room of the district education service center, 4148 Winnetka Av. N., New Hope. Sicoli said the board is likely to act on the teacher layoff options at the board meeting following the Wednesday public meeting, and on the other recommendations as early as March 1.

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547