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Budget adjustments, reductions discussed at school board meeting

District Administrator David Bradley and District Accountant Jen Kleschold presented a 2011-12 budget adjustment estimate, including a list budget reductions to balance the perceived deficit at the St. Croix Central School Board meeting March 21.

Bradley and Kleschold provided the board with a 2011-12 budget adjustments table based on the current three-year rolling average and applied a 5.5 percent reduction, which is $529 per student. Based on their calculations, the district would be missing an estimated $724,962.90 out of this year's budget.

Kleschold calculated Gov. Scott Walker's new rule that everyone must pay 5.8 percent into their retirement (not including Para/custodial union or Administrators, due to contracts).

She also mentioned the governor's proposal to have staff pay 12.6 percent of their health insurance premiums.

"In the meantime we need to add, because we have those two groups that are under contract and have settled contracts for next year. We need to add their salary and benefit increases because we've already said that we were going to pay for those," she said.

She also calculated a 2.5 percent increase in health and a 3 percent increase in dental premiums.

"Because of that increase in the premium, the 12.6 percent that the employee would pay would be slightly higher," Kleschold said.

The district has also looked at saving money through savings in utility usage, retirement savings on new hires, saving from staff attrition and reducing the classroom supply budget by 10 percent.

The results of a survey sent out to teachers in the district showed that 80 percent of teachers found a 10 percent reduction in the supply budget acceptable.

According to Kleschold's table, the 10 percent reduction in the supply budget could save the district around $35,000.

The calculations showed that after all the possible budget adjustments, the district could net $11,242.22.

Kleschold also mentioned the possibility of one-time cost reductions to provide time for adjustments, including the price of a bus -- which costs around $109,000 -- and $100,000 for building maintenance.

"Those would be for one year only and then they would have to go back in," she said.

Kleschold said the para/custodial contract will expire on June 30, 2012 and those employees would start to pay their 5.8 percent into the Wisconsin Retirement System and 12.6 percent toward their health insurance.

Bradley said the budget adjustment table was "meant to be a quick snapshot" to put the board "at a comfort level," knowing that the district has places to make up for the lost money due to budget cuts.

Bradley said he is interested in soliciting input from the staff and the public about other places they believe the district could save money.

"Anyone can send me their thoughts at anytime, but we'll be putting something on the district website where they can click and report that anonymously," he said.

The board re-addressed the consideration of possible teacher layoffs due to financial reasons.

Bradley said, "Administration is recommending that we don't believe it's necessary to provide that safety net, we think we have enough other safety nets."

Bradley said with growing enrollment, management of finances and teachers and other group concessions and negotiations have put the district in a situation where "all the bases are covered."

Bradley asked the board to take an action to reaffirm the intent to keep all teachers in the contract.

All members, but Jeff Redmon who was not present, voted that given the financial situation of the district, the board is comfortable not issuing any layoff notices.

In other news:

• During the public comment time, a few high school students thanked the board for switching to a 4.0 grading scale, as it improved their grade point average, which helped when applying to colleges.

• Middle school special education teacher Shannon Donnelly gave a report to the board on the diversity committee, made up of teaching staff, non-teaching staff, parents, community members and students. The group hopes for more student involvement. The committee has been running for about three months and has planned a number of upcoming activities including a Diversity Week (sometime in April) and an Anti-Bullying Week (April 11-15).

• The board approved a contract with FamilyMeans for the employee assistance program.

• The board approved agreements with Daisy Hill Preschool and Discovery Preschool to provide a 4-year-old kindergarten.

• The board approved the resignations of Darlene Mikla, bookkeeper; Pat Abair, high school industrial arts; Vicki Ehlers, fifth grade middle school teacher; Joanne Sanders, technology coordinator; and Gloria Willert, second-grade elementary teacher.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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