Board asked to cut $2.4 million

by Jim Boyle

Editor

The Elk River Area School District has laid out plans for $3.2 million in cuts and given the District 728 School Board a $2.4 million minimum target to hit.

About 75 percent of the cuts being proposed, or about $2.4 million, are geared to come out of instruction, which will be done in typical budget-cutting fashion, according Superintendent Mark Bezek.

Ironically, this is how much federal stimulus money the district got, but by cutting to this level does not mean the staff added from stimulus dollars will be the ones to go.

Bezek said the district will chip away around the edges of general education, special education and integration in part by not replacing retiring teachers whenever possible, and hours and not necessarily jobs from people.

“When we look at the 2014–15 budget, we’re looking at systemic change,” Bezek said. “We can’t chip away any more. Our Collaborative Leadership Team will lead us through that change.”

Bezek laid out the basic plan for the 2013–14 school year at a Feb. 12 regular meeting of the board. Board members will take a closer look at the budget Monday, Feb. 25 at its 7 p.m. meeting at Elk River City Hall.

Administration is also proposed to be cut by about $550,000, which amounts to 17 percent of the overall cut.

Bezek said the District 728 administration is already below the state average in terms of how much of the district’s budget goes to fund administrative positions.

He said 3.4 percent of the district’s budget funds administration and the statewide average is about 5 percent.

“We’re lean there already, but we want to try and  keep (cuts) away from direct classroom instruction,” Bezek said.

The district is also looking to pull about $250,000 out of miscellaneous categories, ranging from contracted services to reducing energy that powers personal appliances in the district such as mini-refrigerators, fans, heaters, coffee makers, etc.

“They add up,” Bezek said, noting some have suggested between $100,000 and $200,000 could be saved this way. The school district has a hope of saving $50,000 to help reduce the burden of budget cuts.

Another cost-saving measure will be to line up days off for elementary and high school students to save on transportation costs.

The district also wants to examine its flyer policy and the topic of naming rights as a means to possibly generate revenue.

“That will take a philosophical change,” he said.

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