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NY Mills school district looking at $350,000 in budget cuts

New York Mills School Superintendent Todd Cameron had knots in his stomach while discussing budget cuts at Monday's school board meeting.

With expenditures more than revenues the district, like so many other districts around the state, is facing some tough budget decisions. Following Cameron's report, board president Tim Kupfer announced the district is looking to cut about $350,000 for the 2009 budget.

"A directive like this is not easy," Kupfer said. "It's not something we take lightly and just throw out there."

New York Mills has done a good job of avoiding major cuts the last few years as other districts struggle to get operating referendums passed. Cameron pointed out thanks to good, steady enrollment the district has been fortunate and they've had five years of not having to experience the pain of major budget cuts. But now with a depleting fund balance cuts and no new revenues from the state in sight cuts will have to be made.

At the end of the 2007-08 school year, the general fund (unreserved) balance is projected to be around $100,000 which is down about $150,000 from last year. The audited general fund balance was $248,684 to the positive last year.

According to Cameron, the projected general fund revenues for 2008-09 school year are $6.3 million and projected expenditures are $6.5 million. The projected revenue for next year for all funds is $7.4 million and expenditures are $7.7 million.

"We're going to look at creative ways to reduce," Cameron said. "We're going to look at everything from paper clips to positions to staff to transportation."

Budget cuts are not unique to New York Mills. Perham is looking at cutting $500,000 next year and Wadena-Deer Creek faces $800,000 in cuts.

Cameron sees declining enrollment coupled with minimum funding increases from the state as the primary reasons so many districts are coming up short. Although NY Mills has been fortunate with steady enrollment Cameron feels funding from the state isn't keeping up with increased costs. Districts continue to add programs to keep up with graduation standards and the federal No Child Left Behind. And with special education under-funded year in and year out Cameron says districts like NY Mills are forced to make cuts.

The district will look to tighten its belt in every department, which will have an impact on staff. To what degree is uncertain at this point.

"First we'll look at what has the minimum impact on kids," Cameron said. "That's what we look at first, making sure we can still provide a quality education to our kids. That's what we want to protect."