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NLS School Board begins budget-cutting process

NEW LONDON — The New London-Spicer School Board began the annual budget cutting process at the regular meeting Monday by passing a resolution directing the district administration to recommend budget reductions for the 2014-15 school year.

The board also reviewed the budget timeline, which calls for the district administration to present the preliminary suggestions for budget cuts and approving revisions to the current year’s budget at the Feb. 24 work session meeting and presenting a draft of the budget reductions at the March 24 board meeting.

Final action on the reductions and staff layoffs is expected at the April 28 board meeting.

An addition to the timeline this year is that the district will survey staff members regarding budget reductions and will incorporate staff feedback into the board discussions.

The board did not discuss a target number or range for budget reductions, according to Superintendent Paul Carlson, but the board did discuss using to establish projects for the district’s finances.

“We would like to have a model to help guide the board,” Carlson said. “It’s important that we get a handle (on finances) and make good decisions.”

The website offers financial planning and other management tools to school districts across the state, including Willmar. The planning models can be used to make projections up to five years into the future, Carlson noted.

The most recent audit of the district’s finances showed the district has a negative unassigned general fund balance of $787,084 and a total negative balance in its general fund of $667,385.

The deficits are due in part to the fact that the district is spending the $1.5 million in technology levy funds, approved by voters in November 2011, before the funds are actually received from taxpayers.

At the time of the audit, the district’s fund balance was a negative $52,533, when three key capital project funds, weren’t figured into the total deficit.

The board also reorganized for the coming year, with long-time chairman Robert Moller continuing to serve as board chair. David Kilpatrick was re-elected vice chairman. Helena Lungstrom will remain as the board’s clerk and Dan DeGeest will continue to serve as treasurer.

The board will keep the same meeting schedule, with meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, except for July and December, with one meeting on the second Monday in those months.

The board also discussed but did not take action on making Feb. 17, which is President’s Day, a school day for students. The date was identified as a possible makeup day for a snow day, but the board will wait to determine makeup days as a whole, instead of individual decisions on the snow days, Carlson noted.

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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