[Chisago Lakes] budget reductions finalized

/ 29 March 2012 / jennifer

Jeff Norton, Chisago County Press, March 29, 2012 –

After months of planning, discussing and reworking budget reductions throughout the district, the school board voted to finalize the cuts at the regular school board meeting on Thursday, March 22. Most of the reductions had been in the works since the beginning phases. The cuts remained the same from the activities department, the middle school, Taylors Falls Elementary, Lakeside Elementary and the Primary School. The only late changes in the plan came at the high school level where administrative restructuring saved some other things proposed to be cut. The high school was able to keep a half time English position, as well as adding updated textbooks. Although the board passed the reductions unanimously, it was not without some emotion. Board member Noel Stensrud nearly came to tears as she pleaded with parents to start a “grassroots effort” to support an operating referendum in the district. “These cuts are tough, and we’re tired of it,” she said. Superintendent Mike McLoughlin followed up by saying, “We look forward to the day that we don’t have to cut. It’s never pleasant and there are wonderful opportunities and teachers being cut, but it’s just the cards we’ve been dealt.” Four teachers’ early retirement applications were approved. Dave Chapman, Linda Jackson, Debbie Krenz and Randy Skrypek all received $13,000 towards health premiums to retire from the district. Mike Achartz withdrew his early retirement and Perry Aadland switched his from an early retirement to a resignation. The original plan was that if four teachers applied for the early retirement, the incentive would be $10,000 and if more than four applied, the incentive would be $13,000. With six applications it was going to be $13,000, but once the other two dropped out, Director of Business Services Heidi Miller still suggested the $13,000 number stay because of the six applicants.

“It’s still a good deal for the district,” she said. Technical Tutor Stephanie Bushard went over a plan to have 18 at-risk Chisago Lakes’ adolescents work for the summer in the area. Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, along with Chisago Regional and City Parks and the cities of Lindstrom and Chisago City will be working to keep up city parks, ball fields, beach grounds and they will also be doing some various jobs at sites throughout the school district. It’s all jobs that are needed to be done and with this plan, the district only has to pay for materials. There is no out of pocket cost for the district, as the funding is through grants and in-kind donations. “It really is a win-win situation,” Bushard said. Bushard also said it’s a program that they’ve done in the past, as recently as 2009. Community Education Director Bob Meyer went over some program expansion for the Chisago Lakes Kids Club.

The two suggestions that were passed were a pilot three-year-old care program at the Primary School and Taylors Falls Elementary. It would allow parents that have three-year-olds participating in the Little Wildcats Preschool program to enroll into the Kids Club Preschool care either before the afternoon class or after the morning class on days that they attend preschool. Enrollees would need to be three by the start of the 2012 school year. The other recommendation was that Community Ed expands its four-year-old program at both of the elementary schools. The expansion would include before school care from 6 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and also after school care from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. for four-year-olds enrolled in Little Wildcats Preschool.