Cloquet School Board approves budget reductions
Four positions totaling 2.9 FTE were eliminated by the board on Monday, April 24.
CLOQUET — A series of budget reductions in response to the anticipated budget deficit for the 2023-2024 fiscal year was approved by the Cloquet School Board at its Monday, April 24 meeting at Garfield School.
Superintendent Michael Cary shared that the goal of the cuts is to balance the district's budget in anticipation of a projected $500,000 budget deficit for 2023-2024.
According to Cary, proposed changes in the Minnesota Legislature to unemployment insurance and other bargaining practices, with price tags that could fall on school districts, has created uncertainty.
“There are some serious things looming out there that could either swing us heavily towards a surplus or heavily towards a really deep deficit,” he said. “And we have no idea what to expect on that right now. That’s the wild card in all of this.”
A total of 2.9 full-time equivalent teaching positions were included as target areas for cuts, along with five paraprofessional positions at Washington Elementary (three) and Cloquet High School (two).
Positions that do not impact current employees were reviewed first for possible reductions, followed by areas with insufficient enrollment, according to Cary.
Of the seven positions included, the board cut four, including a 0.5 FTE science teacher at Cloquet High School, a 1.0 FTE sixth-grade teacher at Cloquet Middle School, a 0.2 FTE art teacher at Cloquet High School and a .1 FTE intervention teacher at Queen of Peace School.
The latter two positions were probationary and will not be renewed as a result of budget cuts. The half-time science teacher was added because officials expected to see an enrollment increase at the high school that "did not materialize and this can be reduced back to previous levels," according to a board memo.
The decision to cut the sixth grade teaching position stems from the incoming cohort being smaller than previous years, allowing for one less section.
“Our fifth grade is currently a seven-section fifth grade, and we’ve got eight sections at sixth grade. So that smaller group of fifth graders will be moving up into sixth grade,” Cary explained. “So we have a fortunate situation there where we have a retirement out of our middle school in science and we also have a sixth grade teacher who is a licensed science teacher so that teacher can shift out of their sixth grade role and into that open science position, so we’re able to make that reduction without any layoffs or impact to staff.”
The board elected to maintain its 1.0 FTE developmental cognitive disability special education position by unanimous vote.
“I spend a lot of time with high school administrators. There's nothing worse than special-ed burnout,” board member Dave Battaglia said. "They’ve got a good program, good people there. I say we leave it as is and bite the bullet.”
The board also voted to keep a .1 FTE physical education teacher position, as well as a 0.05 FTE music teacher position. The two positions were included in conjunction with there being one less sixth grade section.
"Whenever you reduce a section there’s also specialist time that’s attached. There’s phy-ed, there’s music, there’s art, and so reducing that sixth grade section means that there’s fewer specialist time or less specialist time needed to meet the demand at the middle school, so there’s a fractional reduction there," Cary said.
Members of the Cloquet School Board will reconvene for their next meeting on May 8 at Garfield School.