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Closure a suggestion for MACCRAY cuts

MACCRAY East Elementary School third-grade stu-dent, Benjamin Ulferts, 9, works does school work Wednesday during class. MACCRAY last year imple-mented a four-day school week in an effort to cuts costs. While the district has since saved some $65,000 since then, officials will need to cut a further $350,000 from the 2009-10 budget. One option is to close one of the district's two elementary schools. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

RAYMOND -- Even with the savings coming from a four-day school week, the MACCRAY School District has a small deficit in its general fund and plans to cut $350,000 from its budget for the 2009-10 school year.

Superintendent Greg Schmidt outlined the district's past and current financial condition at a community meeting Monday evening at MACCRAY East Elementary School in Raymond.

About 15 people from the community were present at the meeting.

Past deficit spending has caught up with the district, as have steady declines in enrollment and the related state funding.

The $1.7 million general fund reserve of five years ago is gone, replaced with reserve fund of $191,000. However, $274,000 of the general fund reserve is designated for other uses, leaving the district with a negative cash flow of $83,000 this year.

Two years ago, the district closed its junior high building and cut a total of about 11 percent from the budget.

Last year the district saw more cuts and a decision to go to a four-day school week to try to save money.

This year, the $350,000 in cuts should help the district bring its general fund balance into positive territory, Schmidt said.

The School Board and administrators have built in a 3 percent cut in state aid funding, the result of the state's projected budget deficit. The board has also set a goal of adding to the unreserved general fund balance each year until it exceeds 4 percent of general fund expenditures. General fund expenditures this year are projected to be about $6.9 million.

The four-day week has saved $65,000 in transportation costs and thousands more in energy use and in substitute teacher costs, Schmidt said.

He expects total savings of $85,000 to $100,000 from the four-day week, but the exact number won't be known until the annual audit is completed.

A man at the meeting commented that the savings were "not much" for the four-day week. "In our district, it's two teachers," Schmidt responded.

Schmidt told the group that the School Board is still discussing potential budget cuts to make this spring. He fielded several questions about the possibility of closing one of the district's elementary schools. The district has a secondary school in Clara City and elementary schools in Maynard and Raymond. The Raymond school is larger.

The issue has been raised in community meetings, but the board has not discussed it in detail or made any decisions, Schmidt said.

"Politically, it's a supercharged issue," he said.

The district has a facilities team that is looking at building costs and will be making a recommendation to the board, he said.

Schmidt offered some possibilities for the budget cut list, which is still being developed, include finding a new location for the alternative learning program, negotiating pay freezes with district employees and investigating options for increasing the efficiency of the district's special education services.

The board may also consider asking the voters to approve an operating referendum in the fall.