Feb. 19, 2007

Getting down to business

Proposed cuts could affect administration and activities

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Teachers, staff and community were eager to hear the administration’s proposal for budget reductions during last Monday’s school board meeting.

Dassel-Cokato Superintendent Jeff Powers addressed the school board and audience members about the pending cuts.

Powers explained that the board will be cutting the last $300,000 of $1 million in cuts over seven years and the more that is cut, the tougher the cuts will be.

The first item on the list was reducing an elementary principal position at a budget decrease of $126,685, but at the same time, adding a full-time social worker at an increase of $69,759.

The next suggestion from administration was to reduce the curriculum director position by 25 percent, adding $24,353 to the budget.

Also recommended was combining the activities director and Community Education director position for an additional $20,000 in savings.

With nothing more to cut in the high school and already large class sizes in the elementary schools, Principal Gary Johnson was asked by the team if there was anything that could be cut in the middle school.

Johnson proposed changing the middle school schedule from 45-minute class periods to 60 minutes. This schedule change would result in less staff needed, possibly reducing two full-time staff members at approximately $50,000 each, for a total of $100,000 in reductions.

A possibility would be to integrate reading and writing for seventh and eighth grade, according to Johnson.

He explained that a schedule change would have been looked at in the future, but with budget cuts needed, it sped up the process.

Board member Brian Danielson expressed concern in reducing instructional time in reading and writing, and was hoping for some statistics on student impact.

Johnson explained that he had previously contacted other schools under the same schedule and explained that it won’t hurt communications.

Johnson also proposed cutting a part-time custodial supervisor position at $8,000.

The team also suggested moving from half-day, every-other-day kindergarten to all-day, every-other-day kindergarten to reduce transportation costs, for a total of $35,000 in reductions.

Activities were addressed, with both cuts and revenue increases proposed.

An increase in activity fees would contribute $30,860 to the reductions, and reduce the activities budget by $20,939. This would not eliminate any programs, Powers said.

Perry Thinesen, activities director, explained how the reductions and revenue increases would impact activities.

Revenue would come from an increase in activity fees for junior high sports from $50 to $60, senior high sports from $60 to $80, and increasing admissions from $3 to $5 for youth, and $4 to $6 for adults. This might also include increasing season passes and eliminating the punch pass.

Compared to other schools in the conference, the activity fees still won’t put the district at the top of the conference, according to Thinesen.

Other reductions proposed include:

• Reducing the district’s Community Education contribution by $10,000. This would result in a 10 percent increase in contributions from the cities of Dassel and Cokato.

• Reduce field trips by 50 percent by either taking less trips, having parents contribute more to the trips, and/or both.

• Charge students for parking; $25 per trimester or $75 per year, for an approximate increase of $20,000.

“We haven’t done this before, but it’s something more districts are doing,” Powers said.

The total proposed reductions are $290,218, and the revenue increases would be $50,860, for a total budget impact of $341,078.

The additional $41,078 leaves room for the board to make some choices, Powers said.

In conclusion

After the presentation, questions from the audience were received.

One audience member asked if the amount of money parents and students would have to pay out-of-pocket for the combination of increased activity fees and parking had been calculated.

The numbers had not, but Kevin Dahlman, board chair, stated it was a fair question and would be looked into.

Another audience member asked to have clarified that without a principal in the building, a social worker would have to deal with student issues.

Dahlman did agree saying the manpower in the elementary buildings won’t be as it used to be with two separate principals.

Contact Dassel-Cokato School Board members

The board is encouraging any questions or comments be made directly to the school board members either by phone or e-mail before the Monday, March 12 board meeting.

Kevin Dahlman: Kevin.Dahlman@dc.k12.mn.us

Karen Ness: kmness81@hotmail.com

Richard Tormanen: Richard.Tormanen@dc.k12.mn.us

Brian Danielson: banjo@hutchtel.net

Cary Linder: Cary.Linder@dc.k12.mn.us

Kevin Bjork: Kevin.Bjork@dc.k12.mn.us

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