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home : government : government February 6, 2016

1/30/2013 7:43:00 PM
CF school board: Balancing priorities with cuts, reductions

by Nora Bryson

"Round I of Reductions" was the primary focus at the Cannon Falls School Board's Monday, January 28 meeting.

In order to balance priorities with the projected 2013-14 budget, the board will need to find spending cuts of $350,000 to offset $432,400 in new spending. Superintendent Beth Giese presented the "Breakfast Club's" recommendations.

Given the district's priorities, the budget will see increased expenditures as follows: $50,000 given back to staff development; $25,000 for technology upgrades; $80,000 (minus the "almost guaranteed" state help of $20,000 could bring it down to $60,000) for All-Day, Every Day Kindergarten (approved earlier in the meeting); $26,000 as mandated (7%) for Teacher Retirement Association costs; $84,000 projected to meet contract wage increases of 2%; $74,000 to cover the projected decrease in enrollment of 12 students; and $12,000 to increase "student contact time" at the elementary.

The Breakfast Club's Round I ideas for reducing $74,749 in spending are: $7,194 in savings by reducing the district's responsibility for nursing costs from 2.2 FTE (full time equivalent) down to 2.0 by charging Riverside and Community Education (Pre-school mainly) for services rendered; $30,000 by "reconfiguring" the technology coordinator position to better utilize technology vender Marco (basically a type of out-sourcing); $3,200 by eliminating stipends; $12,252 by eliminating one district cashier; $2,778 by eliminating "music supervisors at events and replacing them with volunteers; $11,825 (approximately 10%) reduction in high school instructional supplies; $5,000 less for "operations equipment;" $500 by eliminating c-squad clock operators; and $2,000 by requiring more sports uniform rotations.

The only real discussion of the proposed reductions came at the end of the meeting, during the public forum portion of the agenda. Elementary teacher Terry Rudd thanked the board for their diligence, thoughtfulness, and hard work in making these most difficult of decisions. She asked that they reconsider the recommendation to cut a cashier and fully understand all the extra things Phyllis Althoff does above and beyond cashiering; in particular, manning telephones, directing traffic, comforting children, and keeping the copy machines running. She also commented on how important it was to have a nurse available to sit and comfort sick elementary students waiting for a parent who works in the Cities to come pick them up.

Althoff asked the board if they would be open to keeping both cashiers if the secretaries could find $12,000 in savings elsewhere. Giese assured her that all alternatives would be considered and invited them to the next Breakfast Club meeting.

Nurse Julie Phelps explained the necessity of the 0.2 FTE so that both the medical licensure and the educational mandated paperwork pieces could be covered. She said they had already seen over 6,000 student visits at the high school this year and over 4,000 at the elementary.

The board will vote on these reductions at their next meeting, February 11. Public ideas and comments are welcome.

Transportation was the second hot topic. According to Board Chair and Transportation Committee member Bob Brintnall, the district has put off replacing buses the past few years to concentrate on more immediate budgetary needs. He said the district is "short of buses. We could really use four or five new ones." The average age of the district's buses is nine years old, but a new bus costs around $80,000 and the district just spent $40,000 for repairs and maintenance to ensure they passed MnDOT inspections (as reported last month, they did, with ZERO infractions!). As a result, the district has started looking into outsourcing its bus service.

Board and Transportation Committee member Rob Siebenaler explained that the district had three options: full contract service (includes everything from buses to drivers to routes and fuel), continue as is, or something in between where the district keeps their assets (liabilities) of buses and garage/property. He explained the weightiness and longevity of the decision, pointing out that if they chose full service and sold their assets, there would be NO turning back-it would be entirely too expensive. He said they were getting quotes and would need to act in the next two months.

Board member Jerry Reinardy inquired what most of the other districts were doing. Giese said that, so far, her research suggests that smaller districts were better off keeping their buses-but not all the numbers are in yet.

Brintnall interjected his concern over the amount of time school administrators needed to spend on transportation; especially since previous staff cuts have already increased their work load.

Siebenaler reiterated that once sold, they would not be back. "Do you really want to give up the control of establishing the routes...and what about Special Ed and extra-curricular activities?" He said it was important to not be drawn in by short-term savings and then discover there are all sorts of add-ons and uncovered costs.

As previously mentioned, the board approved changing the kindergarten program to All-Day, Every Day (ADEDK) effective Fall 2013. Giese made the case for the change, stating that the district was "losing kids because Cannon Falls is the only school in the area without ADEDK... parents don't want to pay for day care when they can send their kids to school." She said it cost the district $6,000 every time a child goes to another district.

Siebenaler asked about the impact to Cannon Kids. Giese said ADEDK would replace it and probably be able to utilize the current staff.

Elementary Principal Derek Bell was asked his thoughts. He said that ADEDK was an "investment that will positively impact early literacy." He felt that the earlier intervention could curb the need to fund literacy programs in the upper grades. He also felt it would reduce behavioral problems by nipping them in the bud.

In other business, the 2013-14 school calendar was approved. There will be NO spring break. There are 13 PLC (Professional Learning Communities) late start days. There are 42 days in the 1st quarter, 43 days the 2nd and 3rd quarters, and 46 the 4th quarter. The year will begin Tuesday, September 3 and end with a half day on Friday, May 30.

Brintnall officially recognized and welcomed Cub Scout Troop 239 who were attending the meeting to earn their civics/government badge.

The next meeting will be Monday, February 11 at 6 p.m. Agenda items are voting on Round I reductions and a presentation on the new, PBIS (Positive Behavior Instructional System) program established to promote positive, safe learning in school and uses the slogan "Keep it REAL (Respect, Effort, Attitude, Learning).

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