Now that the smoke has cleared following last November's failed referendum and the budget cuts have been made, the Brainerd School Board has cut a total of 86.8 full-time positions within the district, or 10 percent of its entire staff for next fall.
The Brainerd School Board finance committee Thursday recommended approval of the final budget reduction total for the 2008-09 school year of $5,523,401. The committee also recommended approval of the 2008-09 proposed budget. If the board had not made these cuts, district expenditures by June 30, 2009, would have been $73 million and the unreserved fund balance would have been projected at a $4.2 million deficit or a 5.7 percent deficit of expenditures, putting the district in statutory operating debt, or SOD.
The budget cuts approved Thursday included the confirmed amounts in the following areas: Transportation, $180,000; Whittier and Lincoln school closures, $550,670; athletics and activities, $861,074; community use of schools, $300,250; programming, $3,631,407.
The following is a summary of staff reductions included within those cuts:
Teachers, 53.4 full-time equivalent positions, or 11.7 percent of the teaching staff. The initial reduction was 59.4 FTE but six positions were added back through staff development funds waived from Education Minnesota Brainerd.
Educational assistants, 13 FTE positions, or 6 percent of the educational assistant staff.
Secretaries, 8.6 FTE positions, or 14.3 percent of the secretarial staff. This includes eight positions eliminated and a .6 FTE of reduced secretarial contracts.
Custodians, 7.8 FTE positions, or 13.4 percent of the custodial staff. Of these eliminated positions, 3.3 FTE positions are from school closures and 4.5 FTE positions in additional cuts.
Administrators, 4 FTE positions, or 14.3 percent of the administrative staff.
Brainerd Assistant Superintendent Steve Razidlo, who will take over as superintendent as of July 1, told board members that the administrative leadership team recommended that the board cut an additional $60,000 in administrative reductions for next fall, which the finance committee accepted and recommended for board approval. The district had previously made $318,864 in administrative reductions.
Razidlo said administrative duties will be divided among the administrative staff, which could mean Razidlo will not be replaced as assistant superintendent. He told board members that there is a possibility of shifting in some administrative positions. Razidlo said the leadership team members hope to arrive at a decision for the new organizational structure as soon as possible but they may not arrive at that decision until June. He said he would report back to the board, likely in June.
Included in the 2008-09 budget is about $400,000 provided by state lawmakers this month, or $51 per pupil, which was provided to all school districts for next fall. Steve Dickinson, director of business services, said that it is not advisable to spend one-time money for continuing expenses and recommended the funds remain in the unreserved fund balance.
Board member Lew Hudson said he believes the district should use $180,000 of those funds to reduce the one-mile walk to school requirement for students to the previous .3-mile walking requirement. Hudson said he is seriously concerned about student safety, particularly for elementary students who will now have to walk to Riverside and Baxter schools, which have limited sidewalks and are located near busy streets. Board member Bob Nystrom said he agreed with Hudson, adding that board members have received a lot of complaints from parents about this change.
"I think it's very difficult to make everyone happy," board member Ruth Gmeinder said, adding that while she is concerned about student safety, all of the budget cuts she and the board has made have been "very, very difficult." She said when the board decided to go with the one-mile walk limit, rather than the two-mile walk limit, she received calls from some people who wanted to see more cuts in transportation, rather than in the classroom.
Board members Ruth Nelson, Reed Campbell and Kent Montgomery said they couldn't support taking these one-time funds out of the reserves and using it for transportation.
The 2008-09 budget recommended for approval Thursday includes the following revenues and expenditures: General fund, $68,161,581 in revenues and $67,508,896 in expenditures; food services fund, $3,442,150 in revenues and $3,677,265 in expenditures; community education fund, $2,104,920 in revenues and $2,121,771 in expenditures; and debt service fund, $6,309,851 in revenues and $6,353,380 in expenditures.
Because expenditures are expected to exceed revenues in the food services fund, administrators may propose an increase in meal prices.
Dickinson told board members that there will be a need for an additional $1.2 million to $1.5 million in budget reductions for the 2009-10 school year, which the board will need to start planning for next year.
On a related note, board members heard a presentation from Christine Smith of Virchow, Krause and Co., an auditing, accounting and consulting firm with offices in five locations, including Minneapolis. The Community Budget Committee recommended that the board explore hiring an outside firm to help plan and implement future budget reductions. Smith said her firm has worked with many school districts, including St. Louis Park and Brooklyn Center. Her firm can provide a functional analysis, consolidation studies and operational reviews of the district. Cost varies, depending on the level of service, from $30,000 to $85,000. Board members agreed to discuss the issue at their summer board retreat.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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