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Big school budget decisions are coming Tuesday

WORTHINGTON -- D-Day for District 518 budget cuts is Tuesday night, when the Board of Education expects to arrive at $500,000 or more in reductions for 2006-2007. Deeper cuts are in store for 2007-2008 if a new operating referendum fails to pass in November, but on Tuesday, chairman Bob Jirele said, the board will concentrate its attention on next year.

"That's our goal, to make the '06-'07 decisions and possibly delay the '07-'08 decisions for another month," said Jirele.

At a public meeting on Monday, the following list of possible budgetary changes for 2006-2007 was presented (dollar change in parentheses):

l Close the Prairie Lakes building, moving programs to the former West Elementary building ($65,000)

l Terminate rental contracts with the City of Worthington and Nobles County Integration Collaborative for space in West ($25,000 loss of revenue)

l Increase rental fees for use of district grounds and facilities ($1,000)

l Reduce district costs for post-secondary enrollment options ($10,000)

l Discontinue Minnesota West auto mechanics course offerings at WHS ($30,000)

l Eliminate 2.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) elementary teacher positions ($90,000)

l Eliminate 1.0 FTE Middle School teacher position ($45,000)

l Eliminate 0.8 FTE high school teacher position ($30,000)

l Eliminate Assistant Special Programs Director position ($80,000)

l Eliminate 1.0 FTE media specialist position ($45,000)

l Eliminate 1.0 FTE translator position ($37,000)

l Reduce/eliminate activities coordinator position ($5,000-$17,000)

l Eliminate 5.0 FTE paraprofessional positions ($75,000)

l Reduce leadership funding ($6,000)

l Request 1 percent staff development set-aside ($100,000)

l Increase season ticket prices for extra activities ($6,000)

l Increase extra activity participation fees for all activities ($10,000)

l Eliminate building and grounds position ($51,500)

If the entire list is approved by the board, the total reduction would amount to $674,000. But the board may decide to amend some of the listed cuts, or even consider some of the 2007-2008 items a year early. On Friday, Jirele said the board appears to lean toward the $500,000 figure as opposed to the $674,000 number. But Superintendent John Landgaard said nothing is certain until concrete decisions are made.

"I know I've had one board member say that we should go above the $500,000, and I have had one who said we should go below that," Landgaard said, adding, "There's going to have to be some compromise."

"I'd say they're in 90 percent agreement (on the 2006-2007 cuts)," Jirele said of his fellow board members. "We protect most of the programs for kids. The loss of a few teachers will be through attrition. Obviously, that makes it a little easier to make some of the reductions. Certainly, it may result in some increased class size.

"I think we have at least eight teacher retirements," Jirele noted.

Jirele said it's important for the district to consider 2007-2008 soon, before residents vote on the operating referendum -- its amount and length which has yet to be determined.

"If the referendum doesn't pass, these things will happen. We still want to make the decisions for '07-'08 so the people know what might happen in case of a failed referendum," Jirele said.

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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