Cities hear from STMA about funding difficulties

by Samara Postuma

Contributing Writer

 

The cities of St. Michael and Albertville conducted a joint meeting with the St. Michael-Albertville School Board.

STMA Supt. Jim Behle began the meeting by giving the cities an overview of the school district financial situation. Current projections show that the district will have a deficit of over $1 million in 2015-2016 if no changes are made. “This will change due to adjustments,” Behle explained noting though that a pattern begins. “That’s the reason we do projections, so that we can make financial decisions particularly if legislature doesn’t change funding formulas.”

Eighty percent of the district budget is salary and benefits with the average cost of a teacher, including benefits, costing around $55,000. While cutting teachers at the elementary level would likely add 3-5 pupils per classroom at each grade level, it would not be as easy at the high school. “Cutting teachers at the high school would require programming cuts,” Behle said.

“The funding formula continues to be a pressing issue,” explained school board chair Doug Birk. “The reason we are lobbying is because we believe the same healthy kid in St. Michael should receive the same amount of funding as the same healthy kid in Wayzata,” he said.

The board hopes to write an editorial to be published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this January and hopes that the cities will also sign it as well. “Any discussion and visibility on this issue will only help us,” Birk said.

Albertville council member Larry Sorensen asked if the surrounding cities and districts have been contacted. According to Birk, a small tweak in the funding formula added more funding to districts like Buffalo and Elk River who have land in Hennepin County.

“There are good things that legislature did,” Behle added noting about kindergarten funding.

 

All Day Kindergarten

In another topic, the school district will be offering free all day, every day kindergarten starting in the fall of 2014. “The details are still being worked out but we do have room,” Behle said.

The Early Childhood Special Education program will be moving to St. Michael Elementary and there will no longer be a need for the half day Kids Play program which will free up some of the building’s space.

The all day kindergarten program offered will be making changes. “The program will be built for all day,” Behle said also noting that at this time the board is looking into if a half day option will be offered as offering half day changes everything from transportation to lunches.

“There will be more math, more reading, more specialists, more expectations and challenges,” Behle told the cities.

A community meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, at Albertville Primary and all community members are welcome to attend. The school board will be making final decisions about the program and offerings at their December meeting.

 

Traffic Control 

During Football Games

Albertville City Administrator Adam Nafstad explained to both cities and the school board that large events at Middle School West, such as football games, create a lot of complaints.

“We’re basically talking about four games a year,” Sorensen said. “Is there anything more we can do from a safety standpoint to get people in and out?”

School board member Drew Scherber explained that the lots at Middle School West aren’t made for the amount of people or traffic that occurs. “I’ve never seen this many people at football games,” Scherber said

Wright County has had officers on site the evening of the home games to help direct traffic and several council and school board members said that they noticed it had seemed to improve the process.

 

Arena Roof

Nafstad next presented an outline on the St. Michael-Albertville ice arena roof improvement that needs to take place.

The roof was replaced in 2012 due to hail damage but since that time there has been dripping from the roof onto the ice and bleachers when it is humid outside. After consulting with engineers and architects the recommended improvements include upgrading the dehumidification system and re-insulate the roof and wall system.

The estimated costs of the project are $545,000.

Nafstad’s outline explained the assumption that each of the three entities would take on a third of the project cost after using $110,000 the arena already has in reserves. “At the end of the day, a new roof is an asset,” Nafstad said.

Both the cities of St. Michael and Albertville agreed and are board with the project, the school board however needs to further discuss.

“We’ve had preliminary conversations about it but funding this will be a challenge,” board member Jeffrey Lindquist said.

The city of Albertville has offered to help fund the school district’s portion on a loan type basis. A final decision was not made.

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