Duluth School Board considers range of possible budget cutsThe School Board saw the first draft of possible cuts, generated by labor management groups and other staff, which will also be presented at community meetings this week where other ideas will be sought by the district.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth school district administration provided a lengthy list of possible cuts to its 2013 budget Monday night, including many items that would mean reopening contract negotiations with employees.
The School Board saw the first draft, generated by labor management groups and other staff, which will also be presented at community meetings this week where other ideas will be sought by the district.
The board has to make about $4.8 million in cuts to its budget, which will get final approval in June. Items being considered include:
Class size would be used as a balancing point, as it has in the past, said Bill Hanson, director of business services.
Board members were not happy with many of the options, including a four-day week and the elimination of all-day free kindergarten, which only began last school year. Many of the items didn’t have savings attached to them, either, making it difficult to see the impact, members said.
“With a four-day week, we would lose more students than the cost savings would be worth,” said Chairwoman Ann Wasson. “And I would have a very difficult time eliminating all-day kindergarten.”
Member Judy Seliga Punyko said teachers can’t handle bigger class sizes than they have already.
Superintendent Bill Gronseth was asked how employees might feel about re-opening negotiations, knowing a new contract will be up for negotiation next year.
“I don’t want to say it’s not possible or they are unwilling to have those discussions, but they are hesitant,” Gronseth said. “It’s not a negotiations year.”
The School Board has been transferring about $5 million a year into debt service for the long-range facilities plan. Board member Tom Kasper asked about using that money to help close the deficit. But Gronseth said that would leave the district short of funds to pay off the facilities program.
“You have already set your levy amount for this year,” Gronseth said. “It couldn’t be a consideration until next December. If we do explore that and have a public conversation and what that means for taxes, it would not happen for next year’s budget.”
The board will vote on budget considerations, including $600,000 in investments along with cuts, March 8.