Duluth School Board discusses plan to save $4.8 millionThe district proposed several budget ideas to the School Board on Tuesday night during a planning session meant to help put together the fiscal year 2013 budget. The board will vote on a final list March 20, which will reconcile about $4.8 million in reductions.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth school district is hoping to avoid further increases to class sizes next year, but it could come at the cost of art and music teachers in elementary schools and one period in the middle school’s seven-period day.
The district proposed several budget ideas to the School Board on Tuesday night during a planning session meant to help put together the fiscal year 2013 budget. The board will vote on a final list March 20, which will reconcile about $4.8 million in reductions.
“This list doesn’t come easily and there are very few things we are completely comfortable with,” Superintendent Bill Gronseth said. “There are few things left to cut that don’t have a negative effect on our system and students … but I want to stay as far away from increasing the student-teacher staff ratio as we can.”
Some of the district’s proposed cuts include:
$1 million and requiring contractual negotiations.
Board member Mary Cameron asked why the district wasn’t proposing increases to employee health insurance contributions and a raised eligibility level.
“Why are we not going there when everyone else is?” she asked. “We’ve never had those difficult conversations. We need to start doing that. It’s an alternative to layoffs.”
Members Judy Seliga Punyko and Art Johnston echoed that. A contribution increase and a raised eligibility level would save the district about $2.7 million. The district isn’t recommending it this year, Gronseth said, because it’s the last year of the teachers’ contract.
“If I felt we had some traction we would propose it,” he said, noting he’s discussed the issue with union leaders. “At this time I am not confident we would successfully negotiate that. I think it’s better left for a conversation next year.”
Board members, who talked about the importance of supporting a new operating levy referendum, were upset about reducing the middle school day and athletics and eliminating elementary specialists.
“There are many of these where we would lose students,” said Mike Miernicki, noting that with student loss comes state funding loss.
And some of the areas, Seliga Punyko said, are what make Duluth schools attractive.
“The idea of getting rid of elementary specialists is really scary,” she said. “That would just hurt us.”
The proposals to the board were culled from three public meetings and meetings with district staff. The list will be further refined this week, with another board discussion set for Monday.