Board seeks budget input

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 27, 2001

One person can make a difference.

Tuesday, March 27, 2001

One person can make a difference. In this case the person is Gov. Jesse Ventura. The difference will be felt in classrooms throughout the Austin School District.

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Ventura’s budget allocations for schools across the state – or maybe a lack of budget allocations is a better way to state it – means Superintendent Jim Hess and the school board are scrambling to think of ways to balance next year’s budget. Taking all of the budget items into account, the district will find itself with a $878,000 deficit, and this does not include pay raises for staff.

One reason for the budget deficit is a reduction in student enrollment for next year. Eighty-five fewer students will attend classes in the district next year, bringing a net loss of $457,045.

Although the district will have an additional $620,000 in new referendum money next year, a 16.7 percent increase in health insurance costs will mean an additional cost of $468,000 in the budget.

Other costs have also gone up as well, including heating and transportation expenses because of the current energy crisis across the country.

In two meetings to be held today and Wednesday, the school board will be asking staff, bargaining units and school committees for suggestions to adjusting the budget.

On Thursday, a public forum will be held at 7 p.m. in Austin High School in an as yet undecided room. They are considering the commons area outside Knowlton Auditorium or the cafeteria.

"We need to be specific about what we want from the people" school board member Amy Baskin said. Baskin suggested the public be informed of the district’s financial situation and the different options for balancing the budget so they can react during the forum.

The solution will involve cuts somewhere and of some kind.