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Budget cuts begin for Wrenshall Schools

The Wrenshall School Board approved $50,000 worth of budget cuts, which will be effective Dec. 5. Officials did not say what will be cut, but plan to announce the cuts in December.

Wrenshall School File.jpg
Wrenshall School
Clint Austin / 2021 File / Duluth News Tribune
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WRENSHALL — The first round of budget cuts were approved by the Wrenshall School Board in a 5-1 vote on Monday, Nov. 14, and will take effect on Dec. 5.

Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro said the cuts are the first phase of the district trying to cut $330,000 to level out its budget, with the next two phases coming at the start of 2023 and end of the school year in May.

The first phase will see cuts amount up to $50,000.

Belcastro and Board Chair Misty Bergman said details about the cuts will be revealed at the district's December committee of the whole meeting. Employees who will be affected by this first round will be notified this week about the board's decision.

"Not an easy process, but one that has started and we are moving forward with now," Belcastro said.

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Board member Cindy Bourn was the only vote against the cuts, which she said was because the district needed to make a larger cut at this time.

Officials have already been spending too much, Bourn said, especially when the first phase of cuts should have been made in September.

She said $50,000 "is nowhere near to what we should be cutting. I think it is irresponsible to delay. We should be making larger cuts now."

It is not as simple as making more cuts, Belcastro said, as any cuts to staff would require officials to work around contracts. Cutting staff could cost the district more if the reductions are made in the middle of the year and the district had to pay out the contracts.

The board also approved taking out a $500,000 short-term loan to alleviate cash flow issues they are projected to run into next year.

The school board heard a proposal on borrowing $500,000 to ease cash flow problems and give it room to make budget cuts over the next year.

A proposal was presented to the board during its previous meeting by Steve Pumper, vice president of PMA Securities, a public fund management company.

Without borrowing anything, Pumper said the district would run into $321,000 worth of negative cash by April 2023.

To subvert that, his proposal was for the district to borrow $500,000 at an interest projected to be around 5.25% on Jan. 25, 2023. The board's motion had an interest cap at 6%.

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The district would have to pay back the borrowed amount and interest by Sept. 30, 2023.

Belcastro said the loan will give officials time to make the necessary budget cuts and right-side its budget for the following year.

During the meeting, Bergman also brought up the issue of filling a board seat when board member Ben Johnson takes the seat he was elected to in January.

Johnson was appointed to temporarily fill the seat of Alice Kloepfer, as she has been out on medical leave. Johnson ran and was elected for one of the three seats available in the election on Nov. 8.

Bergman said Kloepfer will not be ready to come back to the board in January and she wanted to start the discussion on once again appointing a temporary member to the seat.

Bergman proposed appointing the candidate who received the next highest amount of votes, Kristin Reinsch, as it would be a decision influenced by the public's vote.

While it was just a discussion, board members were open and agreed with the idea of appointing Reinsch as she received the next highest vote total in the election.

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
Before posting for the position, the Wrenshall School Board is looking for community input on how the district should format its superintendent position for next year.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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