School district: Without levy, cuts will come

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 8, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

If an operating levy referendum of $957.87 per pupil for Albert Lea schools fails to pass at the Nov. 7 election, District 241 would have to make $1 million worth of cuts, according to Superintendent Dave Prescott.

The school board was presented with a plan for proposed reductions Monday.

Email newsletter signup

One of the reasons for the school district&8217;s lack of funds is inconsistent state funding, Prescott said. Minnesota unexpectedly froze school funding for two years in a row, leaving many rural schools struggling to make ends meet.

&8220;There will be a reduction in busing, so that grades one through six will now have to live two or more miles from the school to get free busing,&8221; Prescott said. &8220;In the past when this has happened, sometimes the parents have paid for busing.&8221;

Busing from two or more miles from the school is funded by the state, and anything closer is funded locally, Prescott explained.

&8220;And we know this is also a difficult one, especially for low-income families who maybe don&8217;t have the extra car,&8221; Prescott said.

Kindergartners would get the same busing they always have had. Seventh- through 12th-graders are already on the two-mile rule.

The plan would cut six teachers from elementary schools, leading to increased class sizes. Southwest Middle School would cut .8 of a teaching position in its music department.

High-schoolers would find fewer electives available and their class sizes would go up, too, because five teachers would be cut.

Students would get hit in the pocketbooks as well as in the classroom, as extracurricular activity fees would go up $40 and parking fees would go up $10 for a year.

Money from the district&8217;s construction fund, generated by facility bond levies, cannot be legally used for school operating expenses.

One of the most popular suggestions for saving money is cutting administration, but that poses a problem too.

&8220;Our administration and support staff are already stretched very thin,&8221; Prescott said. &8220;District and administration and support staff levels have been reduced several times over the past 15 years and have never been restored.&8221;

Despite that, reducing administrative salaries and cutting an administrative assistant to half-time are still included in the plan, saving the district $45,000, Prescott said.

The school board will vote on the plan &8212; which will go into effect only if the referendum fails &8212; at its Sept. 18 meeting.