School board looks at worst-case budget scenario

Independent School District 834 learned about the toll on the 2014-2015 school year if voters reject renewing an operating levy referendum next year during their learning session Thursday at the Stillwater Public Library.

If an operating levy referendum fails, the district could lose at least $11 million and would have to make cuts accordingly.

The board has divided the district into 12 cost center groups, which would have the task of planning to cut 12 percent of funding from their budgets if the referendum fails and consider an additional 6 percent that could be dipped into if more money was needed.

The cost centers include: elementary schools, junior high schools, the high school/alternative learning center, community education, student support services, operations, transportation, central services, activities, teaching and learning, technology, and other areas.

Twelve percent of the various budgets for the cost centers could range from $182,073 for activities to more than $2.5 million spread over the district’s 10 elementary schools.

Superintendent Corey Lunn said the district has engaged an expert group for the preliminary part of the cost center discussions and hopes to expand to wider district representation in the various cost centers to including parents, principals, and staff members.

Cost centers recommendations could be presented to the board Feb. 7, with forums and town hall meetings scheduled later. Recommendations will go through a final review before action is taken by the board.

“These cuts are significant,” said board member Kathy Buchholz. “But we’ve got to stick to the cuts in order for us to keep the trust of the community after going through this process, so hold me to it.”

The final vote on the recommendations is binding and the district hopes determining which cuts are needed and communicating those with the community will show the importance of passing the operating levy renewal.

Decisions on the levy request amount are expected to take place in March or April.

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Discussed spring budget reductions and the reduction process, but determined there were too many unknowns regarding the Cost Center information for 2014-2015 to make decisions. The board meets in January to discuss these options after more information is gained from the Cost Center process.
  • Learned that Lunn, Secondary Executive Director Mike Redmond and Coordinator Eric Anderson will begin the process of researching and providing information examining the costs and benefits of ISD 834’s membership in the East Metro Integration District against the costs and benefits of joining the Educational Equity Alliance.