Dist. 728 levy proposal to address needs, deficit

By Jim Boyle

ECM-Sun Publishers


The Elk River Area School Board advanced its discussion of operating levies this past Monday by taking into account the potential $5 million financial cliff that’s projected for the 2013-14 school year.

District 728 administrators put together a proposal that calls for renewing the existing levy of $386 per student, and a second question for $400 per student that addresses both future needs and future deficits.

That $6 million levy would have four functions:

•It would add the all day every day kindergarten at a cost of $2.2 million annually.

•It would create a $400,000 revenue stream to expedite the curriculum review process to make what currently runs on an 11-year cycle run on a 7-year cycle.

•It would create a $400,000 revenue stream to support present and future curriculum needs by the possible purchase of iPads, computers, software, Tag readers and other technology based items.

•And, it would create a $3 million revenue stream for current and future operating expenses.

Superintendent Mark Bezek said it wouldn’t be prudent to add all-day everyday kindergarten, that’s at the top of the district’s strategic plan, and then proceed to cut $5 million from its 2013-14 budget.

Even with successful passage of two such questions, the school district still figures it will have a $1.9 million deficit to knock down for the 2013-14 school year.

That caught School Board Member Jane Bunting off guard.

“What are we saying ‘no’ to?” she asked.

That process is on deck, administrators assured her. Bezek said the district will be forced to look at cuts.

In the end, Elk River Area School Board members were in agreement with the approach suggested by administration, as long as the next step was to look deficit in the eyes and begin to slay it.

“It’s the 85 percent elephant that we don’t talk about often,” Bunting said, referring to the 80 to 85 percent of the budget that is tied up in staffing related expenses.