CROSBY - With a wad of cash in her hand, Joan Hallada demonstrated Monday night to the Crosby-Ironton School Board that one person can make a difference.
Hallada and her husband, Lloyd, hosted a holiday open house at their Crosby home Saturday and Sunday afternoons as a fundraiser to help save the school district's arts programs in light of the defeated levy referendum and impending deep budget cuts. They welcomed visitors into their home to view Hallada's rotating doll tree, their traditional Christmas tree and other decorations. She also did a lot of baking for the festivities.
About 40 people stopped by over the two-day event and donated $751 to support the school district's arts programs, which Hallada gave to board members Monday night. The actions of this great-grandmother drew applause from the large crowd that attended the meeting to hear about preliminary budget reductions from the board.
"I didn't get a chance to be in the arts when I was in school and now for the last four years I've been taking art (classes) and I'm thankful for it," Hallada said. "I want to see these kids have these opportunities. ... I would also encourage parents who want to see their kids in shop and other electives to get together and raise money to help support those students, too. I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis (Mo.) and heard about how small towns get together and help support their communities. In all the years I've been here, the project of the playground in the park was the first whole community effort I've seen here. I feel the same energy can be put into helping our schools."
Hallada said she decided to host the open house because she believed there were people stepping up to raise funds for sports that may lose funding because of the budget reductions but believed there needed to be something done to help raise funds for the arts.
The Crosby-Ironton School Board had been asked by C-I Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland to made a decision about budget reductions at Monday's meeting but finance committee members - as well as most board members at Monday's meeting - couldn't come to an agreement on enrollment projections for next fall.
Board members have to decide what enrollment figures they plan to base the budget for the 2008-09 school year on before they can decide how much needs to be cut. Board chair Mike Domin said the finance committee was still working on which enrollment projections to use.
The district is experiencing declining enrollment, an average of 22 students each year. However, since the start of the school year, the district has lost about 40 students from Sept. 7 through Dec. 7. That figure could dramatically increase if the district slashes $1 million from its approximately $12 million budget by June 30, a considerable loss of programs, athletics and other electives and larger class sizes. If students move to other districts, they take with them approximately $5,000 each in state funding, causing increased financial woes for the district.
The district is projected to have enrollment next fall of 1,030 to 1,177 students, depending on the calculation used to make that projection and based on conservative or more liberal projections, Skjeveland said. If the board decided to base its budget on a minimal loss of students and then ended up losing many more students than projected, that would send the district spiraling into statutory operating debt, or SOD, or require much more in reductions.
"I think Jamie said it very well - it's a balancing act," board member Bob Sandin said. "It's the financial and the academic. And I guess maybe what it comes down to is what is important to each of us. Unfortunately, we didn't have a referendum that passed so we probably wouldn't be talking about this today if that hadn't happened. We're not financially OK. We're going to have to make cuts that are serious but we don't want to make cuts that are so serious that it devastates the educational system."
If the school district used an enrollment projection of 1,177 students for next fall, it would cause a budget deficit of $250,000. If the district used that 1,102 enrollment figure, it would cause a $610,000 budget deficit. A 1,030 student enrollment projection would create a $960,000 budget deficit. The board also has to determine how much would be set aside in the district's fund balance, a type of savings account for the district. The current fund balance is at about $135,000. A good fund balance would be about 17 percent of the budget, or about $2.5 million, Skjeveland said.
"I think we're either spinning our wheels or are in danger of going backwards until we determine enrollment," board member Scott Kile said.
Board member Barb Neprud said she believed the community and school needed to come together to work at building enrollment. There are about 265 students open enrolled outside the district, she said. If they projected enrollment at that 1,102 figure, Neprud said the district has until March when they have to give notice to teachers who are placed on unrequested leave.
"I guess it's our job to sell our school district over the next few months," Neprud said. "It's our turn to ask for help and to sell our district and to keep our kids here."
"I hope we don't drag this out to a point where we let more people down than we intended to," Kile said. "The enrollment thing is a roll of the dice or throwing darts at a dartboard. It's nearly impossible to pick the right number."
"Is it going to be easy? No, it's not going to be easy," Neprud said. "I think it would ensure closing the doors if we made that $1.2 million in cuts. I just firmly believe that. I believe we have to roll the dice here and put faith in our community and ourselves."
The board adopted a timeline for budget reductions. The timeline includes approving a preliminary list of budget reductions at the Jan. 7 board meeting.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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