The North Branch Area Public Schools District 138 School Board recently avoided some staff reductions and cuts by approving the four-day school week, but budget cuts still have to be made to offset next year’s $1.6 million deficit.
NBAPS Director of Finance Randi Johnson gave a presentation to the board at its March 14 meeting that included a recommendation for the 2013-14 budget.
To pare down the deficit, the finance department is asking the board to consider cutting three districtwide support positions, including 1.5 teaching positions at Sunrise River Elementary School, a .5 teaching position at the middle school and two positions at the high school: a .5 English position and a .33 technology education position. A full-time office staff person at the high school is also recommended as part of the cuts.
Some of proposed staff reductions could be made via attrition, meaning the district might not fill positions left vacant when employees retire.
In the case of Sunrise, staff reductions are suggested to keep pace with projected lower student enrollment.
Also part of the budget recommendation are cuts in supply budgets, activity fee increases, contracting drivers for education services through community education, reducing long-term substitute budgets and reducing midday bussing by two routes.
Johnson noted there are several reasons for the deficit.
She said declining enrollment is an issue, because the amount of funding the district receives from the state is based on the amount of students it is serving.
“Our forecast suggests we’re going to continue to see declining enrollments into the future,” she said.
However, she said declining enrollment might not be as bad as expected, as was the case this school year.
“We’re hoping that forecasted number is conservative,” she said.
The budget recommendation also assumes no increase in funding from the state.
“State funding has not kept up with inflation,” Johnson said.
Johnson said NBAPS is facing this deficit because of the lack of a voter-approved operating levy.
“We’re one of very few districts in the state of Minnesota that doesn’t have an operating levy,” she said.
Another initiative by the district to help reduce the deficit is to offer more learning options and additional programs next year to potentially increase enrollment, which would subsequently increase revenue.
The district is offering all-day, every-day kindergarten next year and plans to expand Project Lead the Way, an educational program that stresses the use of more high-tech equipment in classrooms, from the junior high to the high school.
The district is also looking at partnering with the U.S. Air Force to offer JROTC programming.