Budget reductions approved, jobs cut, unnecessary programs stay?

The Sun Post reports that the School Board approved $3.8 million in budget reductions March 1 and seem reasonable:

Reductions at the administrative level next year will include 29.5 full time equivalent administrative and support staff positions, reducing travel and conference fees and moving school board elections to even years.

Cuts are needed because of declining enrollment and reductions in state aid to school districts, officials have said.

“This is an important decision you are making, but it’s not necessarily a final decision, ” Superintendent Also Sicoli said. “If there is anything you choose to remove, there is nothing to prevent the board from adding it back.”

Cue the “Hokey Pokey” song and dance after that last sentence. Further into the article, we found this:

Closing three school buildings in the spring of 2009 avoided a $2 million annual cost, and passing a referendum in 2008 enabled district officials to restore $5.6 million in programs and staff for the current year. In addition to reducing class size, preserving the arts, saving gifted and talented programs, partially restoring middle school activities and avoiding cutting media specialists.

Note the numbers and programs saved from cuts:

The total $5.3 million in reductions represents 4 percent of the district’s operating budget, Smith said.

He noted that 80% of the district’s operating budget goes to personnel costs.

The board agreed at a work session Feb. 8 not to cut most of the elementary programs on the list of proposed reductions, including full-day kindergarten, visual art specialties, instructional assistants all district choir, band and orchestra and elementary orchestra and band.

To paraphrase an old expression, some on the School Board fiddle while Rome burns. Students are failing AYP and in the basics, but they can draw and sing about it. 
Play on!

We are pleased that Tom Walsh said “we are maintaining a fund balance in case additional state cuts come down the pike.” The teachable moment here is that self reliance makes you stronger: if you can budget without state dependence you stay above water, not sinking in the sea.

We are interested in the school board’s discussion of moving school board elections to even years, saving the district money in odd year elections. This could mean board members agreeing to stay on a year longer (Tyrell, Basset and Van Heel) for a re-election vote in 2012 instead of 2011, and shortening others’ terms (Green, Walsh, Bomchill and Johnson). Putting them up in even years makes sense, when voters are paying attention. Despite parent and voter frustrations last year, a tiny percentage cared enough to come out to vote and change course.

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3 Responses to “Budget reductions approved, jobs cut, unnecessary programs stay?”

  1. give2attain Says:

    I’ll bite. What do you think it requires to keep good families and students in the district?

    I ask because this situation is a matter of attaining the maximum revenues with the least amount of cost. (while teaching kids…) And I am very interested in how you would like to attain this balance point. (ie offerings, etc)

    Let’s consider stripping the district so that it offers only the base Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. Now, which families and students do you think will move into our community and/or attend our schools? My guess is that all middle class and above folks will run quickly to one of those districts with wider offerings. Wouldn’t this leave our community with worse challenges than the size of our tax bill for education. (ie North Mpls)

    I truly wish the costs and revenues were more clearly explained by the district, instead of their blind “we need to offer everything” answer. (ie that is not a plan… it is a dream…) However, I would appreciate if you would post on how you and your followers would strive to balance this cost/revenue scale.

    Please note:
    – fewer kids = higher cost per child
    – lower home values = higher tax rates
    – more troubled kids = higher cost per child
    – good middle class families often leave when District and community does not meet there requirements
    – leading to lower property values

    I am not sure if music, arts and sports have a good revenue to cost ratio for me, however for many they do… Thoughts?

    It is not perfect, however it gives some perspective on this. Though I was reminded the revenue does vary somewhat based on student need. (ie average, poverty, special ed)
    G2A Why Pay More ?

  2. 281 Exposed Says:

    Here’s few thoughts….

    1) Perhaps we can stop giving the Unions more money than we are getting in revenue! How about that? And before you tell me the state isn’t paying enough, let me remind you that “state money” is still our money. So is federal money for that matter. It is not free like the district thinks. I don’t know any business that can survive in the real world if they continue to do that.

    2)”fewer kids=higher cost per child” What sense does it make to pay more money for fewer kids? It’s the classic lose/lose. If a district has declining enrollment they need more money and if they had increasing enrollment they need more money. As usual, it’s never enough, no matter what they need more and I have to deal with less. What a scam!

    3)It’s funny listening to people claiming that our home values will go down if we don’t support the schools (ie pay them more). We passed a referendum in 2008, your home value gone up? YES 281 may not want to use that again when we have another referendum (which will probably be sooner rather than later).

    4) What is a NEED and what is a WANT? Do we NEED both IB and AP? Maybe we could just go all-AP. I don’t know how old you are, but when I went to school there was no Spanish Immersion or Alternative School. I don’t even remember band/orchestra in elementary school. We didn’t offer every single sport or every single art class. We didn’t have “intervention specialists” or “coaches” that I can recall. Now we can’t live without any of this.

    5)Special education has just exploded in the past 10 years in this district. According to the Legislative Action Coalition, it is up 62% in ISD 281 since 1997. This despite the fact that we have lost over 2000 students. So what is going on? Why do we have fewer students and more special ed students? Do all these kids really have some sort of disease or disorder? We don’t want to go all 1950’s here but what is wrong with digging into these numbers especially considering how much man power is spent on special ed?

    6)I don’t know about you, but my taxes are higher than they have ever been. In the past 4 years the state has raised the sales tax twice, gas tax twice, and license lab fees. Hennepin county has raised our taxes every year and so have most cities. On the federal level the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of the year and Obamacare will cost a fortune, yet every element of government is broke! WHEN IS IT ENOUGH! We only have SO MUCH money to give.

    OK I’ve talked enough for one night. I’m tired. It’s a good conversation…to be continued.

  3. give2attain Says:

    I agree… That was probably your best post ever. Keep up the good work.

    By the way, total district costs should decrease with significant declining enrollment. However, cost per kid will increase because the fixed costs can not be dropped quickly or dropped at all. (ie schools, Supt, etc) Therefore, there are fewer kids to cover the cost.

    Also, be careful comparing to those good ole days. RAS has many problems that did not exist in many schools back then. (primarily poverty) Or even 20 yrs ago in RAS… Therefore drug counselors, social workers, psychologists, security guards, etc have become required personnel in RAS.

    As for the growth in special needs. I am no expert and this is just speculation. However, we are learning with modern medicine that many kids that were labelled losers, disruptive, stupid, etc in the past, actually just suffer from a chemical imbalance or some other disorder. Then throw on children that were damaged by parents using the hard modern drugs. (makes alcohol and cigarettes look like child’s play) Then throw on the autism/asperger’s epidemic. Then increase the % of kids in poverty with minimal healthcare. Top this off with more fed/state laws that require more kids be mainstreamed and we have a serious problem. Though I agree that digging into it is worthwhile.

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