“School’s out for Summer!” originally uploaded by Conspirator Design
Hello, all. It’s my turn to “guest host” Lazy Lightning while Bill lies around the house watching sports on the TV and Kim does all the work. First, let me apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to be sure to include enough background for those of you who want it.
As many of you know, I am a school board member in ISD 196. I decided to use my guest stint on LL, with its large readership, to harness the wisdom of the crowd and to ask for your help. Most of you have probably read the stories about the budget woes in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district in the news over the past few days. The short version: Because of flat state funding, unallotments and funding shifts, we are looking at potential budget cuts totaling almost $60 million over the next three years, or roughly one-fifth of our operating budget. There is no way to make cuts of this magnitude surgically. We’ll be using fire axes and sledge hammers, not scalpels. These cuts will be necessary even if we ask for and receive permission from voters this fall to continue our excess operating levy.
We are not alone in this situation: Minnesota governments at all levels are facing similar issues. But schools, because of decisions made by the state over the past year or two, are facing substantial cuts in the next biennium. Even districts that have traditionally budgeted conservatively and lived within their means, as I believe we have, are facing daunting budget-cutting decisions. If we cut one-fifth of our budget, what are we supposed to do? Stop teaching social studies? English?
For those of you who want to know more about the fiscal situation and how we got to this point, this quick video produced by Superintendent Jane Berenz and Finance Director Jeff Solomon does a great job laying out the facts without pointing fingers or assigning blame (the video is the one dated Jan. 11).
To have a look at this year’s budget (as well as a more-digestible citizens guide to the budget), click here.
The school district has met with each employee to lay out the situation and to ask for their ideas and suggestions. The school board has met with administrative leaders several times to examine several fiscal scenarios and establish budget-cutting goals. Administrators have met with parent groups and district advisory councils. The administration will be bringing budget adjustment recommendations for 2010-11 to the School Board on Feb. 8
Now we need the broader public’s help. Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools has scheduled focus group meetings for Feb. 16 and 18 to get reaction to the administrators’ suggestions.
From the district web site:
The focus group meetings will be conducted by citizen members of the district’s Budget Advisory Council. The meetings will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. both nights at Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan. There will be focus groups of parents, employees and business/community leaders. Participants for these groups have been randomly selected and invited by letter from Superintendent Jane K. Berenz. There will also be two open groups on Feb. 18 for anyone who would like to participate but did not receive a letter of invitation. The first 40 people to call the superintendent’s office at 651-423-7723 or show up at the Feb. 18 meeting will be allowed to participate in one of the two open groups.
A district Budget Steering Committee has been meeting since December to develop a list of recommended budget reductions and revenue enhancements for next year. The budget adjustments are needed in response to the state delaying approximately $58 million in aid payments to District 196 this year and the possibility of cuts to education funding during the upcoming legislative session.
District 196 residents and employees may also share comments on the recommended budget adjustments by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by attending regular School Board meetings in February and March. The recommendations will first be presented to the board at its regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 8, 6 p.m., at Dakota Ridge School in Apple Valley. A summary of feedback gathered at the focus group meetings will be shared at the Feb. 22 board meeting. The final budget adjustment recommendations are scheduled to be presented as new business at the March 8 board meeting, with action by the board at the March 29 meeting.
So, what should we do? Any and all ideas are welcome. No, Mrs. Marcos, we will not contract with Coca Cola to give them exclusive rights to our lunchrooms… but everything else is on the table.
Please feel free to email me or to leave a comment below. I will share all of your suggestions with the school board and administrators. Thanks in advance.