Harriet Bishop Elementary School

Harriet Bishop Elementary School in Savage.

A proposal to raise class sizes by one student in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District drew support from the Board of Education this week; several other proposals, such as eliminating orchestra programs and increasing activities fees, were rejected.

The board discussed the 2020-2021 budget during a workshop held via teleconference on Tuesday. While officials expressed their stances on different budget cut ideas, they didn’t make any final decisions.

“There are no good choices, and there are so many things that are unknown,” Board Chairwoman Abigail Alt said. “We don’t know how (COVID-19) will impact us. On the other hand, I’m not over-pessimistic about where we might land next year on enrollment.”

The board is tasked with closing a $2.2 million deficit in the 2020-2021 budget before it’s adopted in June. An online forum collecting public feedback will close April 5. Unlike previous years, no meetings will be held to gather community feedback.

They started with a projected $8.5 million deficit, but officials have been planning how to close the gap since last summer.

The new voter-approved levy increased revenue by approximately $1.6 million, district officials said this week, and the decision to close three schools this year will cut expenses by around another $2.6 million.

Staff reductions based on enrollment projections are likely to reduce spending by around $1.3 million. Other miscellaneous adjustments and efficiencies built into the budget will save around $850,000, $250,000 less than projections shared earlier in March.

The board reached a consensus to consider raising class sizes by one student, which is expected to save roughly $900,000.

Directors Darcy Schatz and DeeDee Currier said they’d be willing to take the proposal a little further and support a slightly higher increase of 1.5 students, which is projected to save an additional $400,000.

But Director Scott Hume expressed some concern about the timing of raising class sizes after a year of difficult changes in the district.

“I’m feeling a little anxious,” he said. “I don’t know if it sends a great message if we say we are going to increase class sizes by two immediately after school closings.”

The Board also discussed eliminating a district-level administrator position for approximately $95,000 in savings, but several members expressed concern about how the job’s duties would be absorbed.

The Board will discuss the budget proposal again during their April 9 meeting, which will be live-streamed on the district’s YouTube channel. The budget will be adopted in June.

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