Willmar Schools preparing list of budget cuts
WILLMAR -- Budget cuts in the Willmar Public Schools could include eliminating some positions that were never filled during this school year. The Willmar School Board reviewed a $1 million list of proposed budget cuts at its workshop meeting this...
WILLMAR - Budget cuts in the Willmar Public Schools could include eliminating some positions that were never filled during this school year.
The Willmar School Board reviewed a $1 million list of proposed budget cuts at its workshop meeting this week. The cut is about 2 percent of the district’s annual general fund budget.
Board members asked for more information about some of the proposals before they are reviewed again at the March 9 meeting.
The budget cuts are needed to deal with expenses that are rising faster than revenues.
Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington said the Legislature may approve additional funding for public schools this year, but that probably won’t be known until May.
The cuts are designed to keep the general fund balance above 6 percent of annual expenses. The board has a policy of keeping a 6 percent balance to maintain cash flow and handle emergency expenses.
School districts in Minnesota receive three-quarters or more of their annual revenue from the state. The bulk of their state aid is based on a per-pupil formula. The state also tells school districts how much they are allowed to levy in local taxes.
While state aid has increased in recent years, it has not kept up with rising expenses in Willmar’s schools.
Expenses have increased as the district has dealt with Minnesota Department of Education orders to narrow its achievement gap and to show academic growth from fall to spring for all students. While the effort has included all buildings in the district, the state was most concerned with the two elementary schools.
The district responded with enhanced instructional programs, including instructional coaches and people hired to help provide small group instruction in reading and math.
A federal grant for Kennedy Elementary School helped fund the programs, and the district used its own funding to provide similar programs in Roosevelt Elementary.
However, the federal grant is expiring, and the district will need to use its own funding for the enhanced programs in both schools.
Some of the proposed cuts include several special education and other faculty positions that were in the budget this year but were never filled. School districts in the state have reported a teacher shortage in recent years.
The open faculty positions proposed for elimination include a half-time science position at the middle school, three special education teacher or coordinator positions, and an alternative programs position.
The district put about one-third of its annual curriculum purchases on hold for a year, too.
Board members said they wanted more information about how 2.25 teaching positions would be reduced in the elementary schools.
Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said those positions would be in “allied” subjects, like physical education, science, art and technology.
Cheryl Nash, director of teaching and learning, said science would not be affected by the cut, but schedules could change for other specialists in the elementary schools.
The elementary principals are working together on scheduling issues for next year, because Roosevelt has more students than Kennedy. Some teachers may be shifted from one school to the other to keep class sizes down in both schools, she said.
Kjergaard said more information would be available at the March board meeting.