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Chatfield discusses budget cuts, raising levy

Fri, Aug 20th, 2010
Posted in Education

All members were present to discuss the upcoming operating levy proposal at the Chatfield School Board's regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, August 17, 2010. Superintendent Edward Harris gave a PowerPoint presentation detailing the budget conditions leading up to the proposal of the levy, the projected financial condition of the school district without the levy, and the levy's projected cost to taxpayers. In addition to making the presentation available online through the CCTV coverage of the meeting, Harris also plans to publish a blog to inform Chatfield residents on the effects of passing--or not passing--the levy.

Harris emphasized that although Chatfield residents have supported excellent facilities for their students, simply having good buildings does not always guarantee that a school district will have enough money for operating expenses. Declining enrollment has impacted the amount of money coming into the district. Harris also pointed out that more than 90 percent of Minnesota school districts have asked for more money to operate and that the average levy state-wide of more than $800 per pupil is significantly higher than the current Chatfield levy of $350.77 per pupil.

If the district were to operate for the next three years with no increase in salaries, no further budget cuts, current enrollment levels, a 2 percent increase in inflationary operating costs, and no further financial assistance from the state, while taking into account that the current levy expires in 2011, the district will deplete its current fund of $1.4 million and deficit spending by over $400,000.

Harris's recommendation includes reducing district expenditures by $200,000 over the next two years. Additionally, he hopes to increase the operating levy from $350.77 to $520 per pupil. This increase would generate $120,000 in new revenue for the district, leaving almost half of the current fund in place for the 2013-2014 school year. However, despite the large amount of revenue raised, most homeowners' taxes will only go up by $21 per year, with the tax increase on commercial properties even less and the tax on farmland actually decreasing.

Board Chair Jerry Chase thanked Harris for the thorough presentation, noting that many neighboring districts have been forced to raise much higher levies. Both Harris and Chase emphasized the necessity of keeping the public informed, and encouraged community members to contact board members or administration with any questions which might arise. Chase also indicated that informational meetings will be held for the public this fall. Board member Matt McMahon emphasized that the district can only cut the budget so much, and called the proposed levy "a terrific plan."

Other new business included approving the list of individuals running for school board in the general election this fall. Two individuals, Matt McMahon and Kathy Schellhammer, filed to run for three positions on the board. Chase encouraged community members to consider running for school board, noting that the third position will need to be filled and could easily be won by a write-in candidate.

The board also received updates on the high school bathroom remodeling project, which is winding to a close, and the new sidewalk being installed. McMahon commented that the district is fortunate to have extra referendum money to use on these improvement projects, and that the money being used cannot legally be used for general operations. Harris wished to recognize and thank the school maintenance staff for their "extremely hard" work in getting the buildings ready for the upcoming school year.

The first day of school for Chatfield students is Tuesday, September 7. The next regular meeting of the Chatfield School Board will be Monday, September 20, at 7:00 p.m. in the high school media center. All are welcome to attend.

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