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Avian flu: Public forum at 3 p.m. Saturday in Willmar with Dayton, other lawmakers

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NLS board discusses future district enrollment

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON -- The New London-Spicer School Board on Monday reviewed class size expectations and enrollment trends, but did not review specific budget reduction recommendations from the district's administrators.

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"We need some more time to look at things," Superintendent Paul Carlson told the board. Carlson noted that administrators are looking at $280,000 in possible cuts.

He said the recommendations would be presented Feb 14 at the next board meeting.

The board unanimously approved a resolution at the Jan. 10 meeting directing the administration to recommend budget cuts for the 2011-12 school year.

Instead, Carlson presented enrollment projections, which include 110 kindergarteners next fall and from 105 to 110 kindergarteners in the coming years. With a graduating class of 146 seniors this spring, the district will lose 36 students to graduation alone.

As for class sizes, the current district expectation is for 23 or fewer students in kindergarten, first- and second-grade sections and 25 or fewer students in grades 3 through 6.

Based on current student numbers, there are 22 or fewer students per section in kindergarten to grade 3; 23 students per section in grades 4 and 5; and 26 students per section in grade 6.

Carlson asked board members for input on what they want class sizes to be. Some schools in the state have class sizes of 30 students or more per section, he said.

"We aren't used to that, but then again with our budget, we may have to do that," he said.

Since the 2005-06 school year, the district has cut $1.3 million from its budget, including about $300,000 last year. Last year, the district's general fund expeditures were $14.9 million.

Since the 2006-07 school year, student enrollment has dropped from 1,585 to 1,465 students.

State funding, which could be reduced due to a $6.2 billion state budget deficit and a bill in the state legislature that would freeze teacher pay for two years, are shifting factors in the budgeting process.

Board chairman Robert Moller expressed frustration at the teacher pay bill, noting the Legislature is making local school board decisions and contract negotiations irrelevant.

"Local school boards, county boards and township boards have to pass budgets that work," he said, adding that state legislators haven't done the same.

Another factor is that the district's total unreserved fund balance was a negative $246,491, or about 1.8 percent of the district's annual expenditures. The state defines districts with a negative fund balance of more than 2.5 percent as in "statutory operating debt" and requires officials to work with the state and make plans to get out of the debt situation.

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