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After two-year budget review, Montevideo school officials decide not to seek levy vote

MONTEVIDEO -- Montevideo school board members have agreed not to bring an excess levy back to the voters this fall in a referendum.

The discussion at Monday's school board meeting came after board members reviewed the budget for the next two fiscal years. The budgets show the district staying in the black, said Superintendent Luther Heller.

Board members had made an estimated $768,000 worth of cuts earlier this year; the actions included a decision to no longer use the Sanford school building for K-12 programs.

Voters had rejected a request last fall to raise the district's excess levy from the current $505 per pupil to $975.

The budget cuts were made based on worst-case projections for state educational aid. The worst didn't happen, and board members feel the district is in a strong, financial position.

Board members also said they felt that voters sent a message that they want to see budget cuts and changes, the superintendent said.

Board members believe that the district would benefit by taking time to demonstrate to district residents the need for additional support, as well as develop and communicate the school's vision for the future. Heller said board members noted that they could seek voter support for funding to restore the status quo, but don't want to do that. They'd prefer to take time to find more efficient and innovative ways to deliver education, he said.

In a related matter, board members discussed the district's music program and their commitment to maintain the existing marching band, jazz and percussion and ensemble offerings. Due to budget cuts, two full-time equivalent positions in the music department are being reduced to 1.5 positions. There will be fewer hours for music lessons, but there has also been a decline in the number of students enrolled in instrumental music classes.

In other business, school board members agreed to tighten the requirements for participation in commencement. Beginning next year, a student must be within one credit of graduating and have passed all GRAD tests to participate. Currently, students could be within two credits of graduating and were not required to have passed all GRAD tests.

In other matters, board members discussed a proposal by the community education department to offer infant and toddler care in the Sanford school building. It currently hosts early childhood and family education, special education and other programs.

The infant and toddler program would serve 22 children but would need to see a 90 to 95 percent usage rate to break even financially. Board members indicated that they wanted to be sure the program could see that level of use.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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