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ISD 181: $1 million in budget cuts targeted

The Brainerd School Board Monday approved a budget cut target of $1 million for the upcoming 2011-12 school year.

Board member Tom Haglin cast the lone dissenting vote.

Superintendent Steve Razidlo presented the board with an administrative recommendation to set the target budget cuts for $1 million.

Those cuts are proposed to come from the following areas:

• $456,000, in certified staff reductions, mostly through attrition, and savings by replacing some retirees with less expensive, less experienced staff.

• $255,000, in educational assistant layoffs.

• $100,000, in academic coaching, training and curriculum implementation.

• $100,000, custodial retirements not filled.

• $75,000, clerical, mostly retirements not filled.

The above list includes about 20 full-time-equivalent positions but also represents more than 20 staff members.

• $50,000, in educational assistant substitutes.

Razidlo broke down the estimated $456,000 reduction in certified staff reductions even further to include the following positions:

• $40,000, special education position cut at the Alternative Education Center. 

• $5,000, AEC director’s new hire salary adjustment.

• $4,000, Baxter Elementary replacement.

• $25,000, Brainerd High School media reconfiguration.

• $40,000, special education position cut at BHS.

• $67,000, BHS social studies position cut.

• $20,000, Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative school psychologist replacement.

• $34,000, Paul Bunyan Co-op 18-21 program replacement.

• $23,000, Forestview science teacher replacement.

• $52,000, K-12 physical education position cut.

• $25,000, Riverside Title position cut.

• $31,000, Forestview social students replacement.

• $90,000, in benefits reduction. 

Last week the school board Finance Committee learned that if the district was to maintain its unreserved fund balance at its 5-7 percent target, then $4 million would need to be cut from the budget during the next two years. Board members had asked administration to come up with a list of programs and services that could potentially be cut from the budget. 

Razidlo also provided a laundry list of additional reduction possibilities, although he stated several times that these were not being recommended by administration:

Here is a list of those possible reductions, including the cost savings if they are eliminated:

• $400,000, eliminating about half of all current activities.

• $230,000, eliminating two administrators and possibly combining leadership roles.

• $800,000, eliminating all-day kindergarten, a reduction of 10 teachers, 10 full-time-equivalent educational assistants and returning to every-other-day kindergarten.

• $200,000, in assessment testing, including prekindergarten through second-grade screenings, and other testing to assess students who need interventions, remediation and for achievement.

• $400,000, coaching, training and curriculum, including 3.5 FTE literacy coaches, one literacy trainer, 1 Reading Recovery trainer, 1 gifted and talented resource teacher, a part-time science curriculum implementation teacher and a literacy educational assistant.

• $700,000, increasing elementary class sizes by eliminating 10 full-time elementary teachers and six full-time educational assistants. Class size would increase from 24 to 27. 

• $500,000, increasing secondary class sizes by eliminating 10 teachers, most coming from BHS North Campus. This is a smaller target than elementary because of the cuts already made in 2008.

• $70,000, a counseling position from the AEC shifted  to BHS.

• $150,000, eliminate the middle level alternative program.

• $250,000, reductions in remediation and skill instruction, including the cut of five full-time teaching positions. 

$300,000, in elementary specialists. This includes five physical education teachers, three music teachers, three media and intermittent visual art instruction offered to all students. These classes also allow classroom teachers contractual prep time.

• $80,000, transportation, eliminating district transportation within two miles of school sites, which would affect about 600 students. This would eliminate two bus routes.

 “Our recommendation is $1 million, we wonder what your response is to that $1 million?,” Razidlo asked the board. 

“I didn’t know this was going to be on the agenda,” said board member Ruth Nelson. “None of us want to do anything that was shown here, not even the $1 million. It’s just really hard to do this tonight. ... I think I would be comfortable saying the $1 million is the minimum but there may be more. I think there needs to be a lot more discussion at the committee level before we can say $1 million is the final number.”

“There’s no way I’m prepared to go along with $1 million in cuts,” said Haglin. “This is the first time I’ve seen this.”

Haglin said he would rather see the budget additions for FY12 and FY13 taking out of the budget first and reducing other expenditures first, like contract negotiated health care increases and employee costs, including steps.

“I would not be comfortable with $1 million in cuts without taking these other things off,” said Haglin. “Not fixed costs but controlled costs. Until we get a handle on that, we’re far from getting in balance. I understand we don’t need to be looking at drastic cuts in FY13 but very soon I want to know what that bridge looks like before we get to it.”

Haglin said contract negotiations play a factor in the district’s budget. Last week the finance committee learned the district’s portion of the cost for health insurance premium increases would be about $1 million. The committee rejected a motion to approve the increase. 

“I can’t begin to give increases and turn around and say we’re going to make cuts,” Haglin said. “I just don’t understand the logic.”

Board chair Jim Hunt said he views the $1 million budget reduction target as a starting point. 

“Let’s give them the authority to make these cuts, then let’s talk about what we’re going to do to raise revenue,” said Hunt. “We can always come back and make fewer cuts.”

Board member Chris Robinson said he could support the plan presented by Razidlo but felt it wasn’t the end of the conversation. 

The school board finance committee plans to meet again next week but a date and time hadn’t been set as of Monday night.

In other board action, the board ratified a three-year extension on Razidlo’s superintendent contract. The agreement calls for a two-year salary freeze at his starting superintendent’s pay of $128,000 per year, with the third year left open to be revisited. 

The board approved a cooperative agreement with the City of Brainerd for the College Drive reconstruction fees and easements.

JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 855-5858.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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