By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN In a few years, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District could be reduced to bare essentials if the $880,000 fall levy doesn’t pass, and school board members are preparing for this possibility.
“We’d be just the basics, what the government mandates, and we’d be in overcrowded classrooms,” board member Al Doering said at a work session meeting last Monday, where the board discussed cuts that would need to take place if people vote “no” in November.
Reductions for the 2010-11 school year would most likely include increased class sizes, as well as cuts to band, FACS, shop, and business courses. In addition, boys and girls cross country, golf, the spring play, and marching band might be eliminated. Various cuts to staff, including paraprofessionals, would also be made.
“It’s a hard list to look at,” board member Jesse Tintes said. “We’re affected, just as much as anyone else, with our kids.”
If the levy fails again the following year, the cuts for 2011-12 could be even more drastic, board members said.
Possibilities include closing the Humphrey Elementary School and Winsted Elementary School buildings, which would save the district a total of about $500,000 in staff, energy, custodial, and repair costs.
Many activities would also need to be taken away, including all junior high sports, gymnastics, wrestling, all music performances, the fall play, winter play, and pep band.
“It’s all the things that make a school experience,” Doering said.
In addition, students wouldn’t be able to take elective and exploratory classes such as Spanish, art, agriculture, or advanced placement courses.
“In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, how is the district going to survive if we make these cuts?” Tintes said.
The reduction list includes more cuts than would be necessary if the levy didn’t pass, Doering said. For the 2010-11 school year, about $400,000 would need to be sliced from the budget, and about $600,000 would need to be taken away the following year.
The list of proposed cuts includes more than $100,000 worth of additional cuts for each year.
“We will need to make between $800,000 to $1 million in cuts over the next two years if the levy doesn’t pass this fall or the following fall,” Doering said. “The earlier we make these cuts, the less we have to make, because it has a cumulative effect.”
The proposed reductions for each year were decided upon based on priority order. For the 2010-11 school year, the budget committee tried to chose cuts that would have the least amount of impact, Doering said.
The reason why the Humphrey Elementary and Winsted Elementary buildings are in the proposal for 2011-12 instead of 2010-11 is because of the cost involved in bringing those buildings back, Doering said.
If the levy would fail this year, but pass in 2010, it would cost the district quite a bit of extra money to move back to those buildings, because the greatest savings is in consolidating staff and programs, he said.
The cuts that are proposed for 2010-11 are easier to bring back, if the levy passes the following year, board member Jamie Wiech said.
“The year after is when you’re talking major impact,” board member Dan Schaible said.
If the levy passes this fall, most of the proposed cuts will not need to be made, Schaible said.
“If all three of the levy questions pass, very few, if any, would need to be cut,” Doering said.
One question on the ballot proposes adding an inflationary factor to the levy. If this passes, the school will have a “better comfort level to offset any cost increases,” Doering added.
The board also discussed other possibilities for increasing revenue, including increasing activity fees by $20, charging $1 per ride for the activity bus, and changing to a four-day school week. Another possibility they discussed was having all day kindergarten, which could generate new student revenue.