CROSBY -- More teachers, nearly 25 percent, in the Crosby-Ironton School District will lose their jobs by next school year.
The Crosby-Ironton School Board approved Monday its statutory operating debt recovery plan, which includes cutting between 23 to 25 teachers for the 2003-04 school year. Last week, the school district hoped to have to cut only 15 to 17 teachers.
The district was declared in statutory operating debt when its general fund balance at the end of June 30, 2002, was $567,713 in the red. By the end of this school year the district will be $994,522 in the red.
Crosby Business Manager Bill Tollefson said when the district found out about the finances it was too late to do any major cuts to the budget to address the debt.
Tollefson said the school district needs to cut $1,463,000 next school year to begin to tackle the financial crisis. This will bring the district's fund balance to $331,461 in the red.
The school district will need to make an additional $250,000 in cuts in the 2004-05 school year to bring the district out of statutory operating debt. By June 30, 2005, the district will have a general fund balance of $295,604.
The $1,463,000 in cuts for the 2003-04 school year include:
* $1,109,000 -- To cut 23 to 25 full-time equivalent positions of a total of 112 full-time equivalent teachers.
* $86,000 -- To cut an administrative position.
* $62,000 -- To reduce two clerical positions.
* $30,000 -- To cut one paraprofessional.
* $26,000 -- To cut one custodian.
* $70,000 -- To reduce extracurricular activities.
* $50,000 -- To reduce programs.
* $30,000 -- To terminate the Honeywell contract, which expires.
Tollefson said about $1 million of the reductions in the 2003-04 school year were based on student-teacher ratio. He said the student population has been on a decline since 1996 and the number of teachers stayed the same.
The district's Finance Committee spent hours discussing several options on what areas to cut, said board member Mike Domin, who also is a committee member.
"This is the most conservative and realistic approach," said board member Scott Kile. "The other two options (that were presented) are assuming a successful referendum."
Other options were offered as a backup plan. The two plans were based on additional revenues from referenda.
"We were in this (financial) situation three years ago," said board member Carol Anne Hales. "Before, we tried to do it (make cuts) where it would not affect us. We tried to massage it. It didn't work.
"This hurts me as much as it hurts you." C-I resident Wes Arneson said he has five children in the school district. He said if these reductions happen, such as reducing the extracurricular activities he said he will leave it up to his children on whether they want to attend another school district.
Rick Harig, a new teacher at C-I, asked the board when the staff should begin to worry about quality education. He also asked when the staff will be notified of the positions that will be cut.
Crosby Superintendent Linda Lawrie said the names of the teachers who will be cut should be ready sometime in February.
Mike Gindorff and his wife both teach at the school and he said that if they lose their jobs they will have to leave the community.
Teacher Stan Nagorski, co-president of C-I United Educators, the C-I teacher's union, said the state and federal governments have not funded education adequately and the school districts are paying for it. He said the community needs to support education funding and can do so by staying in touch with their legislators.
"We need to let people know that it is a crime what they are doing," said Nagorski.
Nagorski also said the district needs to keep an eye on other legislation, including the No Child Left Behind federal legislation. He said if the financially strong school districts in the state see problems with this act then Crosby better listen.
Lawrence Stenstad of Emily said the statutory operating debt plan has to be followed through or "it will be the end of the school district," he said. "It'll be rough."
"I know it will be hard," said Gerry Altonen, Ironton. "But I look at it as saving our school."
Some residents asked how things will be when the new portion of the school opens.
C-I school resident Gene Bordwell asked if in 2005 the district will see an increase in enrollment because of the new building. Board Chair Barb Anderson said the new building may have a positive impact on the school.
Arneson asked the board why the district did not pass a levy before passing a building bond. Lawrie said a number of factors were discussed when going for a building bond. She said the district then did not have enough information about the district's finances.
"We did not do this to gain size," she said. "But to have a safe, positive learning environment for the students."
Arneson responded, "Well if something goes wrong we'll have a new school with nobody in it."
Don Miller, Crosby, said the community has an aging population and the school district has been seeing a decline in enrollment for the past five years.
"Unless there is a huge housing development, the student's aren't coming," he said.
Miller, who said he is not originally from the Crosby area, said he knows the people do not want to hear it but the district should look at consolidating the school.
Consolidation is where two or more independent school districts form one new school district.
Board member Mary Nelson said these budget decisions are difficult to make.
"There just are not any good options," she said. "I hope people don't totally give up. It'll take parents, kids, staff -- it'll take everybody."
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