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Citizens make cut lists

WORTHINGTON -- A roomful of concerned citizens became shadow school board members Monday night at Worthington High School.

In the second of two public meetings to consider suggestions for trimming approximately $500,000 from the 2006-2007 District 518 budget and possibly even more for 2007-2008, about 60 local residents appeared in the high school cafeteria to make personal reduction lists. Dividing into small groups, they prioritized cuts and turned them in to Board of Education members when they were finished.

Perhaps the most popular reduction choice was to close the Prairie Lakes building at a savings of $65,000.

"I just think that's something that needed to be done five years ago," said one leader whose group placed it at the top of the list.

At another table, eliminating the assistant special programs director position -- at a savings of $80,000 -- ranked No. 2 behind a $100,000 staff development set-aside (an item already approved by teachers).

"I think there's a perception out there that unless something in administration is cut -- have at least a little bleeding -- people are going to have a hard time passing the referendum," said a participant at that table.

To which a fellow citizen at the same table responded, "It still stinks, but ..."

Another group was creative in finding solutions, doing its own math to determine that by laying off three full time equivalent elementary teachers and hiring five paraprofessionals, the district could save $60,000.

While participants convened to discuss their priorities, Board of Education members and administration staff moved from table to table to answer questions. Superintendent John Landgaard promised that the recommendations will be posted on the school Web site at a later date.

Firm decisions on budgetary reductions may begin to be made as soon as March 28, when the Board of Education reconvenes in regular session.

Already, the board is preparing local residents for an operating referendum to be placed on the ballot for November -- one which, if passed, will save the district from making even more severe cuts for 2007-2008. The dollar amount and the length of the referendum are still to be determined.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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