A group of 21 stakeholders in the Barnum School District brainstormed ways to avoid cutting staff and programs on Wednesday, March 4 to cover a $750,000 deficit.
However, despite the ideas generated, Superintendent Mike McNulty said cutting $750,000 is not enough. He said the school district cut around $200,000 in expenses starting in 2010. A portion of those reductions involved not replacing teachers when they left.
“Nobody wants to cut, but we have a budget,” McNulty said. “I don't know the answers.”
A group of about 50 people listened to the ideas. Residents were encouraged to write questions or concerns on a piece of paper and hand it in before the group began problem-solving.
A few ideas included charging for band and choir concerts to help save the job of an elementary music teacher, sharing busing with a nearby school, or sharing a superintendent or classes.
Several people said they were concerned about the division in the community the school budget issue caused. Others said they were concerned that the fix would only be short-term and other cuts may be needed in the future. A few people said they felt their concerns or ideas were dismissed or not taken seriously.
Some people wanted to know how the community didn't know there was an issue when others said they saw it coming. Others wanted to know why about 160 students are not attending Barnum schools and where they are going instead.
The district's special education teachers worked before the meeting to find ways they could make cuts out of their budget and found a total of $66,000, which included $33,000 through attrition.
Jill Juntunen, a paraprofessional, said every student is important, and the support staff already struggle to get everything done with the people they have now.
“Our students are not numbers,” Juntunen said. “They are individuals who have very, very significant needs sometimes.”
Student representative Ian Peterson said he has friends with special needs and does not want to see them go without the help they need.
“I love each and every one of them,” Peterson said.
He also advocated for fundraisers to help cover costs.
At its Feb. 18 meeting, the school board approved several non-personnel reductions. To reduce expenses, the district will not reconfigure its technology lease; will not renew its Newsela subscription; will reduce its media budget; will reduce the budget for supplies by 20%; will not renew the Stop-It and Remind apps; will not renew IXL software; will not renew its contract with Ecklund Consulting; will reduce BLT and site team budgets; and will consider reducing one bus route.
The Barnum School Group Facebook page offers a link to a document with a complete list of suggestions, questions and comments about the ongoing issue.