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NLS board starts budget cut process, meets with Minn. lawmakers

WILLMAR -- The New London-Spicer School Board adopted a resolution Monday directing the district's administration to make recommendations for budget reductions for the 2012-2013 school year.

With the unanimous roll call vote, the district begins the annual process to cut the budget, which will likely include preliminary recommendations from administrators at the district's Jan. 23 board meeting, according to a timetable presented by Superintendent Paul Carlson.

There is no target amount for budget cuts at this point, Carlson said. The administration must address several factors -- including settling labor contracts, revisions to the 2011-2012 budget and enrollment projections -- before a target number can be set, Carlson said.

The district has made approximately $200,000 in budget reductions each year for the past several years. Last year, the cuts totaled $193,214 and the previous year, $289,790 was cut from the district's budget.

Key dates on the budget timeline include April 9, when the board expects to approve the cuts and pass a resolution reducing programs and positions. Another key date is June 25, when the final budget for the coming school year will be approved.

After completing the rest of the agenda items, the board closed the meeting to discuss strategy for labor negotiations. This is an allowed exemption to the state's Open Meeting Law that requires meetings of public bodies to be open to the public.

The board on Monday night also met with area legislators, including Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, and Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck.

The legislators are encouraged to be going into the session with an $876 million budget surplus, Gimse said, noting that there is still work to do, but that the state is moving in the right direction.

"We are pretty happy about the direction we are going," he said. The state must first build back its reserve and cash flow accounts, and then begin to pay back the 10 percent of education funding borrowed from schools in the budget agreement that ended the state government shutdown.

"A 2 to 3 percent uptick in the economy could be enough to pay back the school shift," Gimse said.

After letting the legislators address the board, chairman Robert Moller was quick to respond to Gimse's budget surplus statement: "You have a surplus because you borrowed from the schools," Moller said.

The district has had $1.4 million borrowed by the state over the past four year, Moller noted, adding that the board has made $200,000 in budget cuts each year, reducing the educational opportunity for its students.

"Your job, constitutionally, is to adequately and fairly fund education," he said. "Borrowing from our schools is not adequate or fair. Even if we regain that money, we've lost the opportunity for those students."

The board began the meeting by conducting the reorganization of the board. Moller was re-elected as chair, Dan DeGeest was elected vice chairman, Helena Lungstrom as clerk and Michael O'Brien as 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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