The Menahga School Board discussed budget woes at their Feb. 1 work session.

The one-time loss in state aid – $500,000 – due to declining student enrollment will affect next year’s budget, Superintendent Kevin Wellen said, meaning the district will see estimated revenues of $900,900 in 2021-22.

If 50 percent of homeschooled students return to the district, total revenues would reach $10,600,000. If 80 percent return, revenues would hit $11,160,000.

Wellen recommended decreasing next year’s expenses by a minimum of $1 million, for total expenditures of $10,420,000 instead of $11,420,000. An additional $700,000 could be cut for a worst-case scenario, he said, since no cost-of-living increases are in the estimated expenses.

Homeschool survey

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Primarily due to COVID-19, 211 students opted to homeschool this school year.

Wellen shared survey results of homeschool families. Sixty-six surveys were sent out, with 26 responding.

Five families (six children) said they will return next fall. If mask restrictions are lifted, then another 13 families (34 kids) will return. If there are mask restrictions, 67 kids won’t return and only six will.

Staffing comparison

Projected enrollment for this school year was 1,045 students, but only 834 are attending. The latter figure equals the district’s enrollment from nearly a decade ago.

Wellen compared staffing numbers from 2012-13 compared with today’s figures. The biggest increase was in certified staff – 66 versus 83, or an additional 17. Paraprofessionals went from 20 to 42, but Wellen pointed out that over 90 percent of paraprofessionals are for special education needs and “those needs dictate how many paras we can have.” Transportation, kitchen and custodial staff each increased by 3 in that same time period. Office staff went up from 5 to 7.

The implications of the enrollment data, Wellen said, would be reducing class sections from four to three in kindergarten through sixth grade and eliminating seven full-time staff. Specialists and electives would be trimmed back, reducing three to four full-time staff.

In what he called potential Tier 1 reductions, totalling $1,118,000, Wellen suggested cutting 16 positions, including 11 licensed staff, one principal, one clerical position, one custodian, one cook and one program paraprofessional and accepting one early retirement incentive.

Delaying the purchase of one bus and computer devices would reduce the budget by $185,000.

Potential Tier 2 budget reductions, totaling $495,000, include reducing two bus routes, the superintendent retiring/moving to part-time, cutting one clerical position, cutting four certified staff, combining the principal/athletic director positions, cutting one program paraprofessional and charging for meals.

Board chair Andrea Haverinen inquired about potential sports cost savings.

Wellen replied, if all sports were cancelled, the district would save $290,000. The drawback would be if athletes then open-enrolled into another district. He said more data is being gathered for the February board meeting.

Early retirement incentive

Wellen shared criteria and a proposal, if the board is interested in pursuing an early retirement incentive.

“If everyone interested took advantage, the savings would be $160,000 for the coming year. That’s after any incentives are paid out,” he said.

The criteria for teachers or non-certified staff would be a minimum of 15 years continuous service to the district, a current work assignment of seven hours per day, having reached the age of 55 and an intention to retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Wellen proposed a one-time payment of $9,000 for a nine-month employee; $10,000 for a 10-month employee and $12,000 for a 12-month employee. It could either be a cash payment or deposited into the employee’s Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association account.

Superintendent retirement

Wellen can retire Jan. 1, 2022. This would give the district a couple options, he said. An immediate replacement could begin Jan. 2, 2022, or Wellen could not retire until the end of the 2021-22 school year.

The district could also grant an unpaid leave and replace him by the end of August 2021.

Contractually, Wellen is allowed to work through 2022-23.

“I’m not asking for an offer. I’m not asking for consideration,” he said. “You need to start thinking about a transition plan for my retirement because it can happen in 10 months or the end of next year. And there will be savings associated with that, in some form.”

The next regular meeting is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16.