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A $385,000 budget fix for DL Schools

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Though the cuts may not have gone as deep as in recent years, the Detroit Lakes School Board was forced to tighten its budget belt yet again for the 2007-08 school year.

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The board approved a total of just over $123,000 in actual cuts, plus nearly $288,000 in adjustments, reallocations and revenue-increasing measures. Two budget items totaling just over $26,000 were also added back into the general fund expenditures, bringing the total general fund budget adjustment to just over $385,000.

"This isn't the end," Superintendent Lowell Niklaus cautioned the board. If long-range projections for enrollment and corresponding revenue projections hold true, 2007-08 will most likely not be the last year that cuts will need to be made in order to balance the budget.

"How we can do the same with less is what we keep looking at, year after year," Niklaus noted after the meeting.

Nevertheless, board member Deanna Sinclair noted that the cuts made were "a lot less painful than in we've had to make in previous years," and credited the administration and staff with finding "creative" ways to fund programs.

Though Board Chair Dr. Tom Seaworth noted that an increase in state aid revenue had "probably saved us from more drastic cuts," he also credited the administrators and staff with "the great job they have done in making this (budget) something we can live with."

Niklaus, however, cautioned the board that "we're running out of ideas" for trimming the budget. "It's starting to impact us more and more every year," he added.

Cuts approved at Monday night's meeting included a one-time reduction of nearly $14,000 in the total general fund monies to be re-allocated to balance the transportation fund.

According to Niklaus, this reduction was made possible due in part to the fact that no new buses were scheduled for purchase in the 2007-08 school year.

Some teacher cuts and reductions were also made at the Detroit Lakes Middle School, totaling $109,119. One major reduction was the elimination of a Food and Consumer Sciences (FACS) position -- which will be accomplished by the non-replacement of a retiring instructor, Niklaus noted -- a .6 reduction in one middle school art position and another .6 reduction in a mid-level Area Learning Center teaching position.

Niklaus said the elimination of the FACS position at the middle school would only impact the sixth grade classes, which would no longer have the option of taking FACS until seventh grade -- but would still have the option of taking industrial technology or music classes while in sixth grade.

Budget adjustments, reallocations and revenue increases that were approved include the following:

Elimination of approximately $33,800 in one-year expenses that were included in the 2006-07 budget, but will not be necessary to include for 2007-08.

Shifting just over $72,500 in budget items from the general fund to non-general fund categories, including special education federal funds, reserved district staff development allocation, food service and community education funds.

Reduction of electricity, building fuel and unemployment expenditures by $25,000, based on historical analysis of budget allocations in previous years.

Moving up a $95,000 purchase of K-12 math textbooks and related materials from the 2007-08 budget to 2006-07, for one year only. This is due to the fact that the 2006-07 general fund balance received an unexpected $167,000 increase due to increased enrollment.

"It's been a good year for enrollment," said District Business Manager Ted Heisserer at Monday's meeting, presenting figures to the board that showed an increase from 2,603 students in 2005-06 to a current enrollment of 2,661.

In fact, Niklaus noted that K-12 enrollment had increased by seven students between the March and April counts, which was unusual.

"Our enrollments have really held this year," he said. "There have got to be some things happening in our buildings that are keeping kids there."

Other adjustments made at Monday's meeting included an increase in special education tuition revenue from other school districts of $25,000; and one less teacher retirement than had been projected for 2007-08, which resulted in a net decrease in expenditures of $36,000.

On Niklaus's recommendation, two budget expenditures totaling just over $26,000 were added to the 2007-08 general fund. They were:

An increase in contracted hours for the district's lead technology specialist (a non-certified position) from 30 hours a week to full-time, or 40 hours a week. This will result in an additional budget expense of $17,466.

"We're grossly lacking in technology time in this district," Niklaus noted at the meeting.

Two part-time teaching positions at Rossman Elementary School will be eliminated and replaced by one full-time position, at an additional cost of $8,729.

The new full-time position will be for a multi-age teacher, who will teach a combined 4th and 5th grade class at Rossman next fall.

According to Rossman Elementary Principal Sandy Nelson, the multi-age classroom setup could help the school's enrollment, but "that's not the reason we're doing it," he added.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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