Burnsville school budget will preserve class sizes
William C. Crum, Star Tribune, May 22, 2012 –
A spending plan approved by the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school board preserves class sizes and buries the idea of the four-day school week.
A Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District spending plan for next year restores about $1.5 million in proposed reductions, including the equivalent of about 13 jobs, more than half of them in the classroom.
Relying largely on savings in projected health-care costs and about $1 million in reserves, the revised spending plan preserves class sizes and puts back some money for textbooks, supplies and high school athletics. The decisions allow the district to drop controversial plans to save money with four-day school weeks and busing cuts.
The school board approved the revisions 6-1 on Thursday. Sandra Sweep of Burnsville, the vice chairwoman, voted no.
The board asked for revisions in the initial spending proposal after a series of public hearings revealed strong opposition to four-day weeks — intended to save about $780,000 — and to a proposal to reduce bus service for elementary school children. Only children living more than 1 1/2 miles from school would have been eligible to ride, a change from the current one mile.
Years of enrollment declines and resulting reductions in state funding are expected to continue in Burnsville, which has 9,600 students this year. Administrators expect they’ll need to close a school and take other measures, including reducing the number of class periods from seven to six at Burnsville High School, for the 2013-14 school year.
“We will be needing a budget reduction next year, and it will be substantial,” said Ron Hill, the board chairman.
The revised budget plan calls for spending about $109.5 million next year. The updated plan would restore:
• $492,00 for the equivalent of three jobs at the high school and three jobs at the junior highs.
• $83,000 for a guidance counselor.
• $200,000 for textbooks, software, other curriculum-related expenses, equipment, supplies and repairs.
• $46,695 to preserve funding for high school athletics.
At Thursday’s meeting, Sweep proposed and the board agreed to restore $124,500 that administrators recommended cutting from funding for programs for students who need extra help learning English.
Board member Daniel Luth of Savage initially opposed the move, citing the tight budget and pressures on reserve funds.
“We just can’t keep adding things back in,” Luth said.
However, after a discussion about the state of the district’s budget reserves revealed reserves grew from their estimated level this time a year ago, Luth changed his mind.
Superintendent Randy Clegg said an upcoming report on programs for English language learners would not change his recommendation that cuts be made, but Sweep’s proposal passed 4-3. Board members Jim Schmid of Burnsville, DeeDee Currier of Burnsville and Hill, of Savage, voted no.
The spending plan is intended to keep class sizes at an average of 26.5 in elementary grades and 33 in the junior highs and high schools, Clegg said. Luth noted the district was going into its fifth year of keeping class sizes stable, despite its continuing budget problems.
The spending plan maintains reserves at slightly above 8 percent of total spending, in line with district policies.
Bill Crum • 612-673-7215