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Brainerd School District makes more than $350,000 in reductions

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news Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

The Brainerd School Board Monday approved more than $350,000 in reductions for its 2014-15 budget.

The school board of four — as board members Tom Haglin and Bob Nystrom were absent — agreed to make more than $350,000 in staffing cuts and also agreed to $220,000 in savings in retirements and resignations.

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Steve Lund, Brainerd School District director of business services, said the district’s operating deficit grew from about $200,000 to more than $1 million at the end of the 2013 fiscal year. Lund said the main reason for the increase is because of the education funding from the 2013 legislative session, which is slated for fiscal year 2015. Lund said the increase in funding for fiscal year 2014 was limited to a 1.5 percent increase in the general education formula aid, increasing the amount per pupil from $5,224 to $5,302.

The increase in expenses outpaces the 1.5 percent increase in revenue, said Lund.

“Every 1 percent increase in the district’s expenses equates to more than $700,000,” said Lund.

Lund said the deficit from the year-end 2013 to year-end 2014 is expected to grow at a rate of more than 1 percent higher than the revenue. Staffing costs accounts for 80 percent of the district’s expenditures.

The education bill is slated to increase revenue in the second year to roughly 4 percent and Lund said if contract settlements and staffing costs are managed appropriately, the increase should be able to recover the deficit from the current fiscal year 2014 and help balance revenues and expenses for fiscal year 2015.

With the budget reductions approved from Monday’s meeting, the amount of expenditures over revenue went from an estimated $1.15 million in fiscal year 2014 to $117,404 in fiscal year 2015.

The board approved the following reductions:

• Reducing the social studies instruction at the secondary level to save $30,000.

• Reducing the math instruction at the secondary level to save $90,000.

• Reducing the district’s expense share for the career counselor to save $5,000.

• Reducing the math intervention instruction at the middle level to save $30,000.

• Reducing the educational assistant (EA) support staff to save $250,000.

Lund said the reductions are estimates and do not add up to $350,000. He said the district is overestimating the reductions to make sure they achieve the overall net reduction.

Superintendent Steve Razidlo said the staffing ratio in Brainerd is one EA to every 30 students. In other similar districts, the ratio is one EA to every 35-40 students. Razidlo said the district needs to better manage the group of employees.

“This (the EAs) is the single largest adjustment that we need to make,” said Razidlo. “It’s distressing.”

The district estimates the savings on 18 positions where people have either retired or resigned will save about $220,000. The positions open include: an early childhood special education teacher; a kindergarten position; two second-grade positions; elementary music, physical education, special education and speech language pathologist; two sixth-grade teachers; fifth-grade teacher; middle school math, English and special education positions; audiologist; and high school visual arts and two math positions.

Razidlo said it costs less to hire people in entry-level positions, which will save the district money.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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