Benson School Board to discuss preliminary options to cut budget
BENSON -- The Benson School District will discuss until June how to minimize a $400,000 deficit for the 2008-09 school year. Superintendent Lee Westrum said he presented on Monday to the Benson School Board "the largest deficit budget I've seen" ...
BENSON -- The Benson School District will discuss until June how to minimize a $400,000 deficit for the 2008-09 school year.
Superintendent Lee Westrum said he presented on Monday to the Benson School Board "the largest deficit budget I've seen" since he first was a principal for Benson Public Schools. The School Board will have until its June 16 meeting to discuss cutback options for reducing its preliminary deficit for next school year.
Westrum said it will take about $10,000,000 for the district to operate in 2008-09, but Benson School District will still need to dip into its reserves. Westrum said the district doesn't want to eliminate the $400,000 immediately but curtail a solid portion of it.
"We're not looking at making major cuts," Westrum said in a Thursday phone interview. "We're not looking at trying to make up the entire deficit. The board is discussing options at this time. We haven't laid anything out specifically."
One of the reasons for the deficit is the district's "long-term trend of declining enrollments," Westrum said. Benson Public Schools had about 985 students this school year, Westrum said, and expects to lose about 18 before next school year. He said the district anticipates losing another 35 the following year and up to 125 over the next five years.
"That really doesn't seem to be coming to an end for us," Westrum said about declining enrollment.
Additional costs are also to blame. With increasing costs for diesel, labor, and building maintenance, Westrum said, revenues and state aid are not keeping up to cover the bills.
Westrum said for most public school districts, 80 percent of the operating budget is for employee wages. In past years, Westrum said, the district made its budget reductions from employment, but it's been a few years since the district was forced to make such significant cuts.
"Our budget system has been all right. We've deficit spent a little bit, but not this much," Westrum said. "It's the largest one I've seen, but hopefully it won't be that high by the time we get to the June 16 meeting."