School board expands budget cut list
After taking public comment on next year's budget cuts at a special meeting of the Cloquet School Board on Monday, board members did not create a safe haven for any of the recommended reduction areas. Instead they made the list of possible cuts l...
After taking public comment on next year's budget cuts at a special meeting of the Cloquet School Board on Monday, board members did not create a safe haven for any of the recommended reduction areas. Instead they made the list of possible cuts longer.
"Can we just leave everything up there and just add to it?" asked board member Sandy Crowley about items on the list.
"We need other options to look at in order to decide," board member Jim Crowley echoed.
In addition to the eight areas of budget reduction recommendations given to them last week, board members on Monday asked administrators to show them three more options for trimming. The first is to look at reducing the secretarial department's budget by $15,000.
"However you want to accomplish that is up to you," Sandy Crowley said.
"I'm thinking about numbers of kids in classes ... where are our priorities ... they've got to be with the number of kids in the classroom."
Shelly Pritchett, board clerk, had asked last week that administrators bring specific information about cutting 5 percent in athletics across the board. Ken Scarbrough, Cloquet School District Superintendent, said he would have that for board members next week. The five percent cuts would come from non-personnel areas. The third addition to the list involves the administration coming up with $50,000 in additional cuts [non-teaching] for next week.
Approximately six community members, from parents to teachers to counselors, spoke about the importance of saving programs and school staff.
Sarah Goebel, who has four children in the school district, spoke of saving the one elementary school principal that was added to the list of potential cuts last week.
"I think of a principal as the captain of a ship," she said. "And you want the captain to be on the ship all the time. I don't want to see the principal devalued."
Jim Crowley said he never intended to have a principal put on the list and he wanted to consider cutting a different administrator that doesn't directly affect kids.
Armed with information from the Minnesota State Board of Education, parent Lisa Stein talked finances, specifically property taxes as they relate to education funding.
"I'm tired of budget cuts," she said. "In Cloquet, only 2.6 percent of our property taxes go to our schools, and we're only paying $96 per student. The state ceiling is $700, so I don't know if it isn't worth a shot," she said referring to putting to vote an operating levy referendum in the near future.
"It's a tough sell in this town," Scarbrough said. "We've got to keep pressure on legislators and that's the primary thing to do right now. The only other thing is to go for referendum."
Cloquet High School counselor Lee Oling handed out informational packets detailing the many duties of counselors and social workers. Two social worker positions are on the list of potential cuts.
Warren Peterson, principal of Cloquet High School, pointed out that most of the job duties of counselors and social workers are educational and academic and that should be considered as cuts are made.
The parent of an open enrollment student, Jackie Lang, said she was there to support the orchestra program.
A 1999 Cloquet High School graduate, Amanda A. Hoover (Fall), sent an e-mail from her home in Watertown, S. D., supporting the school's orchestra program.
"One of the few good memories I have of high school was the orchestra program," she wrote. "I began in fifth grade and attended the school board meeting that was to end orchestra so many years ago."
Hoover's e-mail is also signed by her husband, Brittany R. Hoover, who also graduated from Cloquet High School in 1999. About him Amanda wrote, "He tells that music taught him more than any sport ever taught him. Please reconsider the notion to end orchestra in Cloquet."
Toward the end of meeting that lasted about three and a half hours, Scarbrough pointed out that while the schools need to get the budget cuts in place soon, whether they stick will depend on the final decisions of the Minnesota legislature later this spring.
"I really appreciate all the comments that have come tonight," Scarbrough said. "I spend a lot of time reading about things happening around the state - things being cut that should never be cut - going through a decade of financial drought in Minnesota with no increases at all.
"If the legislature comes through, we can maybe add some things back."
Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: email@example.com .