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Benson Schools officials settling on $154K in budget cuts for 09-10

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BENSON -- Benson Public Schools will trim $154,000 from the budget for the 2009-10 school year without laying off an employee.

Superintendent Lee Westrum said Tuesday the amount could change before the board approves the budget in June. The district, however, will still operate with a deficit in the area of $296,000.

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"But we did not end up laying anyone off," Westrum said.

In terms of personnel, Westrum said, the district is weathering this round of cuts better than those of a year ago.

According to Tribune archives, Benson Public Schools cut $158,000 from its 2008-09 budget, when it faced a $360,000 deficit. Westrum said the district also had to eliminate three teaching positions prior to that school year. One position was cut and two others reassigned to different grades.

In 2009-10, Westrum said the district will save about $50,000 in personnel costs because three teachers are planning to retire in June.

Those positions are likely to be filled at a lower salary.

The district will most likely cut its alternative learning center administrator to part-time employment and get rid of a co-activities coordinator role filled by one of the upcoming retirees.

Another of those retirees, Westrum said, is also the school social worker. He said the district will most likely contract for that service with Swift County-Benson Hospital. The district will also trim $10,000 from its activities department and $13,000 for classroom supplies.

Westrum said the Benson Education Association -- the teachers union -- also eased the burden by waiving a mandatory 2 percent increase to the staff development budget for 2009-10 and allowing it to be spent elsewhere.

Westrum said the School Board approved the union's waiver on Monday. The money, however, will still go toward staff development.

"We were appreciative that the teachers' union voted to allow us to do that," Westrum said.

The district will cover the pending deficit by dipping into its undesignated reserves fund. In a previous interview, Westrum said the reserves held about $2 million.

Westrum said the district expects to receive no increase in state funding after the legislative session concludes.

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