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NLS begins its annual budget cut process, approves Race to the Top

WILLMAR -- The New London-Spicer School Board on Monday approved a resolution directing the district's administration to make recommendations for reductions in programs and positions.

Thus begins the timeline for budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year. Superintendent Paul Carlson presented a timeline whereby the board will work on the budget reductions over the next three months and approve the cuts at the April 12 board meeting. The bo-ard also approved signing on to the state's application for Race to the Top grant funding.

The district could receive up to $1.8 million in federal funding over a four-year period, according to Carlson. State officials have estimated there is a 50/50 shot state schools could receive $230.5 million in grant funding, he said. However, the district is proceeding without the support of its teachers union.

Education Minnesota-New London-Spicer has declined to sign on to the RTTT application, citing a lack of specific information about the expectations, measurement and compensation of programs funded by the grant money.

Carlson acknowledged there are a lot of unknowns. He said the district can't sign on to the grant application later but can opt out later with no penalty. One of the qualifications is that districts have to join Q-COMP, the state's teacher incentive program, by June 30, 2012.

Area legislators also met with the board and discussed state budget issues, education funding and the upcoming legislative session.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, noted it is his 14th year serving as a legislator. "This year is different than any of the 14 years," he said. "It's much more somber."

Legislators face another $1.2 billion in budget deficits when they return to St. Paul in February. "My hope is that we can work out the $1.2 billion in the legislature," Sen. Joe Gisme, R-Willmar, said in admitting lawmakers face significant challenges to fix the state's budget.

Board chairman Robert Moller admonished the legislators, including Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, to step up and address the issues at hand. "Democrat, Republican or whatever," he said. "Do what needs to be done."

The board also:

? Re-elected Moller as chairman, Dan DeGeest as vice chair, Helena Lungstrom as clerk and Michael O'Brien as treasurer. The board will also continue to meet at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Board compensation will continue to be $150 per month with additional $300 for the board chair, $200 for the clerk and $100 for the treasurer.

? Accepted a letter of retirement from district business manager Barb Gjerde, who will retire on June 30 after spending 30 years with the district.

? Approved adjusting the school calendar to make June 3 the last student day of the year and June 4 the last teacher day of the year. The change, one less instructional day, was required by the teacher contract approved recently.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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