by Jim Boyle
The Elk River Area School Board enacted on Monday nearly $2.7 million in budget reductions.
The cuts are expected to be the first of three sets of reductions over the course of three school calenders. The reductions go into effect this summer in time for the 2013-14 school year.
Superintendent Mark Bezek likened the school district’s financial woes to that of the highway department’s.
“Our infrastructure is falling apart because under-funding forces us to dismantle good programs that meet our needs,” he said. “For years we have been underfunded and inequitably funded.”
Add to that the failed operating levy, the district has a $5 to $6 million hole to fill, Bezek said. For this year, that translates into the loss about 22 full-time equivalents (FTEs). To get there, district administrators came up with a plan that affects 40 staff members.
Bezek explained that the adjustments are not performance related.
“They are budget related and at no time should anybody believe these employees did not live up to our expectations. They did. Some far exceeded our expectations. I am truly sorry this has to happen.”
The district’s human resources department is offering help during the process.
Bezek and the Elk River Area School Board had the help of many to devise a budget reduction plan. The superintendent involved his Collaborative Leadership Team, which is comprised of principals, third-level administrators and supervisors.
“This is the toughest part of our job,” School Board Chairwoman Jane Bunting said. “Certainly we understand that we require financial stability to continue educate children, but tonight we are also tasked with making decisions that will affect the lives of some of our staff.”
The School Board targeted administration, instruction and other areas for reductions to its spending plans. About 74 percent of the general fund will go toward instructional staff. One area that was held harmless was technology.
“Hopefully, the Legislature will come through for us and help us out,” Bezek said.