By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board did a bit of budget shuffling at its meeting last Monday, in an effort to prepare for possible reductions in state aid next school year.
“There’s so much uncertainty right now,” Superintendent Brad Sellner said.
The board decided to plan for a state aid reduction of 2 percent, along with a conservative enrollment growth estimate using ZIP code count births.
As a result, the board modified the budget by $200,000. Some of the money came from reductions, and some from additional revenue the school expects to receive. The board also approved a few additions for the 2010-11 school year.
The contract for part-time middle school math teacher Addie Mucha was not renewed, and family and consumer science teacher Kathy Wilson’s hours were eliminated at the middle school. Wilson will still teach at the high school, however.
The board also reduced Ashley Roemer’s reading extension position from 30 hours per week down to about 24.
“It’s never easy to go through reductions,” Sellner said. “Hopefully, if state aid isn’t reduced, we can look at bringing some of those positions back.”
At the high school, the current math teacher will transfer to the middle school, and the middle school math teacher will become an additional fifth grade teacher. According to Middle School Principal Jim Schimelpfenig, the fifth-grade teacher position is needed in order to keep class sizes of about 23 students.
Because of lower special education numbers, the school was able to cut one paraprofessional at the middle school, and one at Humphrey Elementary, as well as a business office paraprofessional.
The paraprofessionals will have the opportunity to apply for health paraprofessional positions, which will be added for the 2010-11 school year. By adding these positions in the health department, the district can look at reducing its McLeod County nursing services.
Reductions at the district level included restructuring the contract with SMS financial services, which could save the district $30,000.
By not hiring a new special education teacher at the middle school when the previous teacher resigns at the end of the school year, the district was able to save an additional $19,055.
The board also accounted for savings in the district that will lessen the amount of cuts needed. The alternative learning program is projected to bring in nearly $100,000, if 15 students participate, and the Meeker and Wright Special Education Cooperative (MAWSECO) autism program, as well as staff development and other funds, will also help to offset potential budget shortfalls.
The board approved the use of collaborative grant dollars to purchase alternative learning program curriculum and supplies, as well as hire a part time social worker.
If the budget allows, the district might also add an additional bus driver, which would mean shorter routes for students. Other possibilities include a payroll position, and an online tool called measures of academic progress (MAP) testing, which helps students prepare for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) II tests.
With these changes, HLWW will be able to keep a $360,000 fund balance, which is about 4.45 percent of the school’s total budget.
“We had a few calls from people about their taxes,” Sellner said. “I just want to reiterate that the tax increase did not have anything to do with the levy and the vote last fall.”
One reason people have noticed a tax increase is that enrollment numbers were under-reported to the state. Thus, the district had to catch up on payments.
“In the long run, more student numbers is a good thing, because it means more state aid,” board member Alan Doering said.
Another reason for the increase is the rise in bond payments, which were set up to increase with growth in the area.
“The increase would have been distributed among the growth, but because there hasn’t been any growth anywhere, it has to be absorbed by the taxpayers,” Sellner said.
“The board did everything it could to lessen the tax impact,” he added.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved a lane change pay increase for teachers Wade Moravec, Robin Day, and Andy Gagnon for continuing education credits.
• heard from financial consultant Todd Netzke that the district is under budget for expenditures by 2 percent so far this fiscal year.
• adopted a resolution authorizing Elementary Principal Jennifer Olson to serve as the local education agency (LEA) representative, and Robin Day as the lead teacher. The district appoints these titles every year in order to apply for Title I funds from the federal government.
• discussed Minnesota’s failed Race to the Top application. According to an article from Minnesota Public Radio, the application was missing data and was difficult to read.
• decided to wait to combine polling sites. If the board decides to move polling to one location, the public would need to be notified by May 2011, in order to prepare for the November 2011 election.