Cloquet School Board: Anticipated budget deficit growsTwo steps forward, one step back. Budget estimates released at Monday night’s Cloquet School Board meeting now show an anticipated unassigned general fund operating deficit of $897,909 for the 2012-13 school year.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Budget estimates released at Monday night’s Cloquet School Board meeting now show an anticipated unassigned general fund operating deficit of $897,909 for the 2012-13 school year.
The figures released by Business Manager Kim Josephson take into account the “add backs” made by board members two weeks ago to restore elementary staff, but Superintendent Ken Scarbrough noted that the budget faces additional upward pressures.
“We have other changes, including workers’ comp insurance, medical insurance, and property and liability insurance which we expect to rise by about $150,000 from last year,” Scarbrough said Wednesday. “These changes are across all fund areas.”
The district has projected large operating losses in the past, but increased revenue streams from a variety of sources have often cushioned the budgetary blow. Scarbrough also said he does not anticipate the School Board will embark on a new round of budget cuts.
“Mr. Josephson still has budget projections to make due to enrollment,” Scarbrough said. “So the figure the board received is projected, but likely to change.”
For the second consecutive meeting, board member Sandy Crowley moved to add a first-grade section for next year, which would bring anticipated class sizes to approximately 20 students next year from 24. And, for the second consecutive meeting, Crowley’s measure was defeated, this time by a 5-1 vote.
The board also took the unusual step of pulling a number of items from its consent agenda so they could be considered individually. Consent agenda resolutions are all items usually deemed non-controversial enough so they can be passed in a single vote.
One such pulled item was a resolution seeking permission to post up to a 1.0 full-time equivalent elementary music teacher.
“With the additional elementary sections, it’s hard to get space for a 1.0 FTE,” Scarbrough said. “It might be easier to hire more than one part-time position.” The board voted to allow administration to post available positions as needed.
The board also removed the extra-services contracts for the district school improvement coordinator, the activities director, and the health and safety coordinator from the consent agenda for individual consideration.
Jennifer Larva’s contract as school improvement coordinator was altered from the proposed 20 extra days plus five comp days to 10 extra days plus 10 comp days. “That reduces the cost to the district by 10 days,” Scarbrough said.
Tom Lenarz’s contract as activities director was approved after an initial misunderstanding of the terms of the agreement prompted its removal from the consent agenda.
Steve Syrett’s contract as health and safety coordinator was approved for the coming year with the proviso that the position be folded into the duties of another staff member for the 2013-14 school year.
There was also board debate regarding a proposal to reduce 13 non-union positions by 10 days due to budget reductions. Ten of the positions were in the American Indian Education Department, with two licensed occupational therapists and the central printing position also on the list.
The board voted to remove the central printing position from the reductions. “The printing load won’t be going down,” Scarbrough said. “So the position was needed.”
In other actions, the board approved the hiring of Ruth Reeves to become the new director of Cloquet Community Education. Reeves, who spent the last 13 years with the Aitkin Community Education program, will replace Sara Liimatainen, who is retiring in June.
Reeves holds a Master of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and earned her administrative license from the University of St. Thomas.
“Mrs. Reeves has an outstanding background in community education,” Scarbrough said. “Her communications skills are outstanding. She comes very highly recommended, and will work with Sara Liimatainen prior to her July 1 start date to help with transitioning.”
Also, Cloquet Middle School Principal Tom Brenner reported to the board on a proposed change in scheduling for next year at the school. The plan would lengthen the class periods for up to four days per month to allow for block scheduling during those days.
“That would allow some 90-minute class periods to allow items that take longer than normal class time, such as for labs,” Scarbrough said. “It hasn’t been finalized, but the goal is to increase the amount of contact time with students during the school day.”