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NLS school officials begin the process to cut the budget, add 16th bus route

A NLS bus is pictured outside the bus garage in New London.The district will add a 16th bus route, replacing the bus route cut last year. Tribune file photo

NEW LONDON -- The New London-Spicer School Board unanimously ap-proved a resolution Monday directing the district's administration to recommend reductions for the 2011-12 school year.

The resolution begins the annual process to cut the budget, which may include preliminary recommendations from administrators at district's Jan. 24 board meeting, according to Superintendent Paul Carlson.

Key dates on the budget timeline, which was also reviewed at the meeting, include April 11, when the board expects to approve the cuts and pass a resolution reducing programs and positions. Another key date is June 27, when the final budget for the coming school year will be approved.

Carlson cautioned the board members against including a specific amount in the resolution. There are too many unknown factors to specify, he said. With the state facing a $6.2 billion budget deficit, funding per student may be reduced by the Legislature.

The district shows increasing student numbers this year, with 36 more students attending classes in January than were budgeted for before the school year began.

However, student numbers will drop as the senior class graduating this spring includes 146 students and the incoming kindergarten class is expected to be 110 students.

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.

Last year, the district cut $289,790 from the budget, which includes about $12 million in the general fund. The cuts included one teacher reduction, a 0.4 full-time equivalent business teacher. Much of the rest of the cuts were due to administrative changes. Elementary principal Sonya Peterson retired and assistant principal Joe Broderick took that position, saving $105,100. The district saved $30,000 by replacing retiring business manager Barb Gjerde with an accountant and redistributing other duties. The cuts also included realigning the secretaries, at a savings of $31,400, and reducing the high school counselor to half-time, at a savings of $35,250.

In other action:

- The board approved adding a 16th bus route, replacing the bus route cut in last year's budget cuts. The route will alleviate overcrowding on several routes, including the bus that comes to Willmar to pick up students who attend school in New London.

- The four board members who were reelected in the November election took their oaths of office. They included Holly Cogelow Ruter, Dan DeGeest, Helena Lungstrom and Robert Moller.

- Moller was elected as chairman of the board, DeGeest as vice chair, Lunstrom as clerk and Michael O'Brien as treasurer.

- Board meetings will remain on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, with one meeting in July and December on the second Monday only.

- Board compensation remains at $150 per month with an additional $300 for the chairman, $200 for the clerk and $100 annually for the treasurer.

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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