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Crookston schools will cut $1 million for 2010

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Crookston Public Schools will cut $1 million from its 2009-2010 budget, the School Board decided Wednesday, following the administration's recommendation.

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About three-fourths of the total amount reduced will be in staff, according to Superintendent Wayne Gilman.

He said he doesn't know yet what positions will be cut and who it will affect; it could be anywhere from 10 to 20 positions out of the district's 300 employees.

He and the board will conduct a working session at 7 a.m. Friday to refine the cuts further, he said. When the board meets again Feb. 23, Gilman said he hopes to have a list of specific programs and positions to be cut.

Staffing makes up about 70 percent of the district's $17 million budget.

The $1 million figure came after the finance committee carefully considered state funding, enrollment, insurance premiums and fuel costs, among other factors, and realized that the district would be in a deficit if it

didn't cut that much from the budget.

"It puts us on the course for statutory operating debt," Gilman said. "And that's illegal. We can't do that."

All districts exceeding a 2½ percent fund balance deficit are placed in statutory operating debt by state law.

Savings

The board approved three retirements Wednesday, and Gilman is unsure whether those positions -- an industrial arts teacher, an elementary teacher and a teacher from the Area Learning Center -- will be filled. That will be discussed Friday, he said.

If other employees ask to retire, it could reduce the number of staff laid off.

The board also is considering eliminating the school resource officer, saving $31,800 annually. If the board decides to eliminate the position yet this year, after the required 60-day notice, it could save an additional $7,800.

Other areas that might be affected by the cuts are gate fees at activities, the district-owned swimming pool, textbooks, staff development and delayed purchases, Gilman said.

Placing the blame

A decline in enrollment and flat state funding are largely to blame for the massive cuts, Gilman said. The district has an enrollment of about 1,290 and anticipates losing about 45 more students by fall.

The state also may shift the funding formula so school districts get 80 percent of their funding in the current year, instead of 90 percent, and 20 percent the following year, instead of 10 percent.

More funding is possible in the federal stimulus package and Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget proposal, but Gilman refers to them as "wild cards," as they are uncertain.

It's too soon to guess what kind of cuts the district will have to make for 2011, Gilman said, and he can't guarantee that the $1 million cut this year will be a cushion. "Unless the state provides more money, we'll be making more cuts in the future."

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