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Fillmore Central faces budget cuts


Fri, Feb 1st, 2008
Posted in Education

PRESTON - The Fillmore Central School Board is faced with the difficult and unpleasant task of making cuts to the budget for 2008. At the regular meeting on Wednesday, January 30, the board decided to form an ad hoc committee to look at the numbers and get some more information before any final decisions are made.

As far as the amount of money needed to be cut from the total budget, Superintendent Myrna Luehmann said, "We need to get as close to $200,000 as we can."

Luehmann put together some numbers for the board to consider, which included possible staff retirements, the cost of the current staffing and programs, as well as possible changes to the budget if the school were to move the seventh and eighth grades to the high school. If the decision to go with a 7-12 high school were made, the elementary would be K-6, and there would be no middle school. The school could potentially save money by eliminating some duplication in class offerings. Luehmann also figured in what the budget would be like if things remained the same, and the enrollment projections for the next couple of years.

Class sizes have been going down gradually every year. The graduating classes have been around 60-65 students, but the number of students coming into kindergarten is around 35-40. Currently, the district receives $5,074 per pupil unit from the state, and Luehmann said the money is not covering the cost of educating the students. More students are choosing open enrollment out of the district than into the district. The district expects $100,000 less revenue in 2008.

K-8 Principal Brenda Lentz presented some ideas for making cuts at the elementary and middle schools as far as teaching staff and moving some programs around. Many teachers were present at the meeting, and many had already given some suggestions and input at a meeting on Monday night.

High School Principal Heath Olstad mentioned that if they were to change to 7-12, the seventh and eighth graders would have more options as far as elective classes that they are not offered now. The extra students would also strengthen some traditional programs, such as agriculture and small engines.

Board member Deb Ristau said she wasn't sure it was a strong enough reason to move the middle school program, and would like to look at making other cuts before making such a drastic change.

Board member John Torgrimson stated that there could be some negative repercussions to changing the high school to 7-12 if it was done in a rash way. The board agreed that coming up with a major decision before February would be rushing things.

The ad hoc committee will consist of Luehmann, Lentz, Olstad, Ristau, Torgrimson, Sue Sikkink, and bookkeepers Darla Ebner and Kathy Whalen. They will meet as soon as possible to get some more information to present to the public and the rest of the board. After they meet they would also like to involve teaching staff in the decision-making process.

Facilities Projects

Another problem the district is facing is financing the many maintenance and improvement projects that are needed at all three buildings.. Torgrimson, speaking for the Facilities Committee, presented a list of the many things that the aging buildings need.

"This is really more of a wish list," said Torgrimson. "To keep these buildings going is going to cost money."

The high school needs work done to the sidewalks, tuckpointing on the stack, asbestos and lead paint removal, and heating systems. The middle school needs roofing, tuckpointing and landscaping work. The elementary school, which is a relatively new building, only needs some gutter and eaves work to keep water away from the building.

In the long term, Torgrimson stated there will need to be a change to the boiler in the middle school, and maybe switch to steam conversion to save money in the long run.

"We need to come up with a long-range plan over many years and prioritize these things," said Torgrimson.

Board member Craig Briton, who is also on the committee, said there is almost $3 million in upgrades for all three buildings.

"The financing is really the main issue," he said.

Luehmann recommended looking at the items that can be paid for with Health and Safety funds first and get those things completed. The board agreed. They will also be talking with Aaron Hess from the engineering firm AEF about financing ideas.

Wrestling Mascot

Wrestling coach Nate Carlson approached the board with a request to use the nickname FCLMC Wolves for the wrestling team. Currently, the wrestling team consists of students from Fillmore Central, Lanesboro and Mabel-Canton schools.

"We're not getting the numbers we need to compete with the other schools," said Carlson. "I know that having a name won't change that, but it's a step in the right direction."

He added that the team would like to attract more kids from Lanesboro and Mabel-Canton. Carlson said they are not asking for any more money or new equipment, it would just be a name that would bring the team together.

A couple of board members were concerned about the other sports that are shared with other schools, and whether or not they would also need a new mascot. Carlson mentioned that the GMLOK (Grand Meadow Leroy-Ostrander Kingsland) wrestling team has the nickname the Bulldogs and have not had any problems.

The new nickname could be put on sweatshirts or uniforms in the future. The board approved the name change.

The board also approved using $360 of Athletic and Arts Trust Fund interest money to purchase a record board for weight training at the high school. Chris Mensink, the Dean of Students, explained that the board is a motivational tool for all athletes that use the weight room. The Fillmore Central Booster Club has already donated $300 and the wrestling Booster Club has donated $200.

Parking

Luehmann stated that Custodian Supervisor Blaine Moe brought to her attention a problem with parking at the middle school. During concerts, games and other events, vehicles are being parked on both sides of the driveway, leaving very little room for cars to drive through, and no room for an ambulance or fire truck if they were needed. He had asked to put orange cones on one side of the lane to prevent people from parking there.

Board member Ron Stevens asked about the possibility of widening the driveway, as he believes it will be hard to enforce no parking there.

For now, the board decided to place cones around the corners and exit areas and look into the costs of widening the drive.

Other business

• Anna Kiehne, a 1965 graduate of Harmony High School donated $10,000 to the school. The money will be used for reference books and SMART boards.

• The board accepted the resignations of Mary Haugerud and Holly Mensink. Haugerud was a special ed. paraprofessional and Mensink was a pre-school teacher. They also approved the hiring of Angie Haugerud for the para position and Tara Corson for the pre-school position.

• Danette Grimsrud, the social worker, was hired for the Early Risers position and will be paid a stipend for the extra work.

• The board re-organized for 2008: Sue Sikkink was elected Chairperson; Deb Ristau, vice-chair; Shelly Topness, clerk; Craig Briton, vice-clerk; and John Torgrimson, treasurer. Board salaries will remain the same, as well as committee assignments.

• Coaching assignments were approved for spring sports. JB Mathison will be the head baseball coach with Aaron Mensink the assistant coach. Jon Holger will coach junior high baseball. Tris Tollefson will be the head softball coach, and Brenda Ryan will coach B-squad softball. Brad Holten will coach boys golf, and Bonnie Piehn will coach the girls golf team. Lane Powell will be the junior high golf coach.

• Driver's Ed. fees will remain the same at $325 for Fillmore Central Students and $375 for out-of-district students.

• Two open enrollment requests were approved.

• The February meeting was changed to February 21 at 6:30 p.m. in Harmony.

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