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NLS approved $173,000 cut to 2013-14 budget

NEW LONDON — After mulling a list of potential options for cutting costs for the last couple months, the New London-Spicer School Board unanimously approved a resolution Monday to cut $178,000 from the district’s $12.6 million general fund budget next year.

The cuts were made with an eye toward preserving programs and maintaining class sizes, said Superintendent Paul Carlson.

The budget reductions include seven main areas, including reducing special education staff by 1.5 full-time equivalent positions; discontinuing a part-time curriculum/assessment coordinator that had been put in place this year; cutting a new media specialist position; and reducing a social studies instructor’s time and realigning staff for a reading intervention program.

The board also agreed to stop leasing space at a downtown New London facility for its alternative learning center and to move the program to the high school. Because of staff retirement from the ALC, existing teachers will staff the ALC as a “school within a school,” said Carlson.

The board has been cutting the annual budget by $200,000 to $300,000 for the last several years in an attempt to create a fund balance to give the district a little cushion in case of emergencies.

Carlson said the district should have a $200,000 fund balance by the end of the year. The goal is to eventually have an unreserved fund of $750,000.

There are a number of unknown factors that could still affect the budget, including legislative action to set state K-12 funding and teacher contracts. There are also seven teacher retirements expected this year at NLS, which will have long-term effects on the budget. Carlson said five of those positions will be filled.

Meanwhile, the board approved a bid of $173,000 from Duininck Inc. for a capital improvement project to replace the 20-year-old tennis courts.

The bid was less than the original estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. The project includes replacing the existing seven courts and adding an eighth court.

Because an additional court is being added, the shot put area will be moved. That project was included in the bid.

The project is expected to begin in June and be completed in time for the tennis tournament scheduled during New London’s Water Day celebration. Once the asphalt is applied, it must cure for a month before the lines can be painted.

Carlson said it may seem odd to approve general fund budget cuts of $178,000 at the same meeting when a $173,000 bid for tennis courts was approved. But he said the sports facility project is funded from the district’s $1.35 million capital improvement bond.

The board also agreed to move ahead on a $75,000 project to upgrade the weight room. The district is contributing about $20,000 from capital funds for that project, with the rest coming from the sports booster club and private donations.

The board was also informed about an event set for May 16 at the Middle School/High School for a “Healthy Families: Healthy Communities” event that will include a health and wellness expo, a 1K Cat Crawl fun walk, 5K Cat Scratch Fever run/walk, poster contests and walking maps of the New London and Spicer Communities.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750