Spending cuts of more than $2 million next school year in Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools will affect staff and classroom supports after a split School Board vote this week.
The board voted 4-3 to approve the cuts and reductions presented by district administration officials on Monday. The new recommendation cut $2.4 million in spending and bring in $600,000 in new revenue.
The package will cut six full-time-equivalent teaching positions from the elementary schools, 2.7 from the middle schools and 1.8 from the high school and allow several teaching support positions to remain vacant.
The new budget will also cut the number of special education staff, freeze Superintendent Teri Staloch’s salary for a year, reduce the supply and tech budgets and increase energy efficiencies in district buildings.
For this school year, the board unanimously voted to lay off over 150 community education staff members and terminate the positions of four Kids Company and Youth Programs staff members.
Those district previously furloughed the staff members because of the loss of fees with no in-school activities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Business Services Executive Director Julie Cink said the district has saved about $50,000 in reduced fuel and utility costs and another $200,000 from not needing to hire substitute teachers during the pandemic.
But technology, distance learning and unemployment have cost more. The district has also begun refunding about $125,000 in activities fees and about $200,000 in parking fees.
Director Melissa Enger said budget conversations had been a “rollercoaster” over the years as the district debated and then passed a referendum, saw a major budget deficit this year with fewer students than expected and now the pandemic and budget process.
Board members said this is likely only the first in a series of cuts that will continue next year and potentially further to re-balance the district’s budget.
Board members were divided in the final conversation over the weight of administration cuts compared to those in the classroom. The cuts to teaching positions total $650,000, while the changes to administration budget totals $130,000.
“At this point I’m not recommending a specific administrative reduction,” Staloch said. “However, we will work on meeting this budget reduction target through the negotiation process.”
Enger made a motion to delay the board’s vote definitely and have the district bring a new package back to the board with greater cuts to administration or consultants.
“The information we heard from the community was pushback and common sense that we have to feel the pain across the board,” Enger said in an interview Tuesday. “And of course you look at administrative cost — why would you skip that area?
“Everything has to be on the table,” she added.
Several board members said they would like fewer cuts to teaching staff and a greater variety of options in the next round of budget conversations. But that wouldn’t affect the district’s chosen ratio of teachers to students, Director Michael Nelson said.
Enger’s motion was supported by directors Mary Frantz and Enrique Velazquez but failed to reach a majority. Enger, Frantz and Velazquez dissented in the budget approval.