The Brainerd School Board took its first formal step Monday to make program and staff reductions to resolve its projected $3 million budget deficit in the 2005-2006 school year.
Board members adopted a resolution that directs school administration to make recommendations for program and staff reductions because of the district's financial condition.
The review process has now begun to determine what programs and positions may be eliminated in order to cut the projected $3 million out of the budget.
Superintendent Jerry Walseth said district administrators have met with school staff members and are now gathering input from building principals. They also have been presenting budget information to community and parent groups and asking for input. All comments received from staff members and community members will be posted online in about one to two weeks. Visitors to the district's Web site will soon be able to take an online survey and leave comments about how they believe the district may save money.
The survey should be online by Friday on the district's Web site at www.brainerd.k12.mn.us.
Steve Dickinson, director of business services, said the school board will have to determine what programs and staff positions it plans to cut or reduce by July 1 at the latest. But he said he felt board members should make those decisions by their May board meeting in order to give affected teachers a longer notice that they will be placed on unrequested leaves of absence.
Walseth said the $3 million budget gap is the projected deficit for the 2005-2006 fiscal year but this figure could change if the state Legislature provides relief for the state's school districts. The district may not know how much financial help they will receive from state legislators until July or August, said Dickinson. In that case, teachers placed on unrequested leaves of absence may be called back and programs reinstated for the upcoming school year. The school board also may decide to spend down a portion of its fund balance, which could alleviate some of the deficit.
Walseth said the district could reduce programs, in which case tenured teachers would have seniority to retain their positions. The district also may decide to place all 46 non-tenured teachers on unrequested leaves of absence or give lay-off notices to first- and second-year non-tenured teachers. Non-tenured teachers are those who have been employed by the district for less than three years.
Assistant Superintendent Gary Phillips said there are many Twin Cities school districts that place all their non-tenured teachers on unrequested leave of absence in the spring and notify them in the summer if they have their jobs back. Historically the Brainerd School District has not done this, he said.
Walseth said they will likely bring administrative recommendations for resolving the budget shortfall back to the school board by the end of March or early April.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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