Z-M school district continues to evaluate budget cuts

/ 28 March 2012 / jennifer

Sandy Hadler, Rochester Post-Bulletin, Mar 28, 2012 –

MAZEPPA — A number of Zumbrota-Mazeppa school employees, fearful that their jobs are in jeopardy because of budget cuts, attended Monday’s school board meeting.

They’ll have to wait for answers.

What’s next:
April 9: The superintendent will present his recommended budget cuts during a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. in the Zumbrota High School media center.
April 23: School board meeting to vote on cuts.

“We talked with you at our last work session,” school board Chairman Brian Grudem said. “You brought up your concerns and things for us to think about. We have some options. We will continue to discuss this. At our next work session, we will have a list of what we’ve decided on, and there will be more answers for you then.”

The school district is looking to shave $250,000 from its budget. Superintendent Tony Simons discussed several possible cuts.

He said he looked at every department in the school district and discovered that $36,000 is spent every summer for additional custodial help.

“That is a lot of money, and that will go on the list (of potential cuts),” he said.

Simons said that a couple of teachers will resign and questioned whether the district should eliminate one of the positions or hire a replacement at a lesser salary. This could save other teaching positions being considered for elimination.

Simons also questioned how many electives the district can offer. He said he was recently approached by a person who offered to teach Latin to high school students.

“It sounded good, but a school our size can be spread too thin,” he said.

Elective classes are well attended at ZM, but some have fewer than 10 students, he said. Those electives might be offered only once a year or every other year.

“These decisions become extremely tough,” Simons said. “This isn’t about cutting fat; it’s about cutting into the bone, which is a sad state of affairs.”

Grudem said cutting PER funds has been suggested. PER money, about $100,000 a year, is for new books, which are purchased on a seven-year rotation for each educational department. The district made cuts in this category a few years ago when faced with deficits.

The board also discussed a suggestion from a constituent to reduce the amount of paperwork sent home with students. Sending home one announcement per household, instead of one with each child, will be considered.

Speech pathologist Ingrid Freeman, fearing that her position might be cut, presented information to the board about what she does with students.

Mike Deming, the district’s maintenance and health and safety coordinator, said that if his position is eliminated, the district will have to contract out the work he does. Simons said the cost of doing that is considerable.

School board member Pete Hinrichs asked whether an operating levy referendum is needed, but board member Marie Josselyn said it’s too late for that.

“Reductions still have to happen regardless of whether we hold a referendum,” Josselyn said. “We can’t wait two years for funding. If he (Simons) thinks we need to make $250,000 in cuts now, we need to do that, and a referendum will play into it next time.”

Simons will present the cuts he recommends during a special meeting at 7 p.m. April 9 at the Zumbrota High School media center. The board will vote on cuts at the regular school board meeting on April 23.