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Fillmore Central anticipates budget cuts

Fri, Feb 20th, 2009
Posted in Education

Preston - There was a lot of discussion among the Fillmore Central School Board members at their Feburary 18 meeting about the budget for the upcoming year, possible cuts and how to work with the legislative decisions that are coming up this spring.

Board member John Torgrimson attended a legislative meeting at the Southeast Service Co-op in Rochester with Chairperson Sue Sikkink and Superintendent Myrna Luehmann. Torgrimson said the general consensus among legislators was that there would be cuts in state education funding in the biennial budget. He said it was unclear how the federal stimulus money for education will affect the state budget, but noted that Governor Pawlenty's budget proposal calls for using 3.5 billion in stimulus funds to balance the budget. The state deficit is now expected to be around seven billion dollars.

At the meeting they talked about Pawlenty's offer to use Q Comp as an education incentive. Teachers would be paid based on merit, the end goal being better academic performance. According to Sikkink, the idea has been met with mixed feelings.

"There will be a lot of debate and discussion in the legislature as to how the budget is going to play out," Torgrimson said, noting that 40-percent of the state budget is education funding.

Senator Sharon Ropes had previously told the school district and surrounding communities to make a plan for their budgets with five, ten and fifteen percent cuts.

Luehmann has been asking staff at the K-8 building for any ideas they may have on how to save some money, and Principal Heath Olstad has been doing the same at the high school. She asked the board for direction on how to proceed with possible budget reductions.

Board member Ross Kiehne felt the budget committee should meet to see where they are sitting as far as the budget, and also to look at what the numbers would look like for the projected cuts. Sikkink suggested they hold at least one public meeting to get some input from parents and other members of the community.

"Let them come tell us what their thoughts are," she said. "We need feedback from everyone, and to listen to their ideas."

A budget committee meeting was set up for the week of February 23. The committee will look at the budget numbers so people have some idea of what the cuts will do to the budget. A public meeting was set for Tuesday, April 14 at 7:00 p.m. in the high school media center. The public can voice their opinions at that time and give some ideas and thoughts about budget cuts.

Daycare Pay Rates

Community Education Director Holly Kanengeiter presented the board with a pay rate change for daycare employees. She said the daycare has been running for six years, and they were hoping that when they got full they would make money or at least break even, and they haven't.

"Our only real expenses are staff and food," said Kanengeiter. "Wages are a huge expense."

She added that they are never overstaffed, and sometimes staff members are sent home when numbers are down. They have done everything they can to keep their costs down, but this year they have a deficit of $11,000, which is an improvement from previous years.

Kanengeiter has found the wages of the staff are high compared to others in the area. Their rates were increased a couple of years ago, and are comparable to other daycare centers. She doesn't feel it's a good time to be raising the rates.

The people who currently work in the daycare will not have their wages changed at all, but if there are any new hires, they will be paid a slightly lower wage. A new aide will get $8 an hour, and a new lead teacher will receive $9 an hour. Also, any substitute aides or lead teachers will receive a lower wage from now on. Sub lead teachers will make $8.55 an hour and sub aides will get $7.55 an hour. The board approved the changes.

"It's not a huge savings, but it will help," said Kanengeiter.

Torgrimson asked if other schools with daycare centers are able to make a profit. Kanengeiter only knows that Lanesboro's daycare center has low numbers and has had to lay off employees.

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