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Scouts learn lesson in governmet budget-cutting

A half-dozen Perham area Boy Scouts learned an eye-opening lesson about government and the economy at the March 16 Perham-Dent School Board meeting.

Scouts from Troop 321 were on hand, fulfilling a "Citizenship" merit badge requirement to attend a local government meeting.

Part of the school board discussion focused on cutting $542,000 from the 2009-10 school year budget.

"They're going to have to cut something, but it's a big time bummer," said Scout Dylan Ashcroft, a junior at PHS who will no doubt be feeling the impact of the cuts when he is a senior next year. His brother, Austin, was another of the Scouts in the audience.

School administrators and the board are handcuffed from finalizing the cuts because of the many unknowns connected to state and federal funding--which was another good civics lesson for the Scouts.

"Shot in the dark" is how Superintendent Tamara Uselman described the efforts to budget. "There is no way our business office can put this on paper...we have to let March play out, and continue into April."

There is some indication that the school could receive $131,000 in money from the federal economic stimulus program. Or, it could be $500,000. But, the state may actually deduct $900,000--because Minnesota is also facing a huge deficit.

"Unless the money is here, and in the bank, it's best not to count it at all," said school board member Jim Rieber.

About $450,000 in cuts for next year have been on the list for several weeks. Nearly $120,000 will come by cutting cleaning and secretarial staff.

Another $45,000 will come through an increase in activity fees--which are the dues parents pay so their kids can participate in sports and extracurricular activities.

New cuts, and revenue sources, on the list include:

---$6,446 raised by the "More Than Nothing" campaign.

---A secretary volunteered to reduce her contract from 12 to 10 months, for a savings of $2,300.

---A retiring math teacher will not be replaced, for a savings of $60,000.

---A half-time science teacher on leave will not be replaced, for a savings of $30,000.

---Telephone lines have been reduced, removed and restructured by Arvig Communications Systems. Superintendent Uselman anticipated $3,000 in savings, but it might be closer to $10,000 when it's all over.

---The school has connected with a special, surplus merchandise organization that provides un-sold products like tape, pencils, notepads and books at deep discounts. The school's first order was for materials with a $900 retail value--for about $25.

Even with those cuts, the board is still $95,000 short of the $542,000 target for next school year.