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School district moves ahead another $200K

Last month, a preliminary budget showed the Perham-Dent School District’s deficit would be reduced by nearly $800,000 over the next two years.

Last week, it was announced that the district will save an additional $200,000.

The savings are due to reductions in administrative costs and bus routes, as well as the timely reception of grant money that was not factored into the preliminary budget, Superintendent Mitch Anderson and Business Manager Kristi Werner explained at a school board meeting last Wednesday.

The reduction in administrative costs is largely due to the departure of Fred Sailer, who had worked with the district for more than 30 years and was compensated accordingly. The hiring of newer staffers, who command a lower salary, in addition to “integration funding” from the state, which funds roughly half of incoming Activities Director Erin Anderson’s compensation, will result in $77,000 less in expenditure in administrative costs than last year.

The district will save another $34,400 by reducing the number of school bus routes from 19 to 18 and adjusting its estimate for gas prices from $4 per gallon to $3.75. Overall, the district saw a 2 percent increase in transportation costs, but ended up saving money after removing the bus route.

Additionally, the district received $140,000 in Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services grant funding from the state. The grant was not approved until last week, Anderson explained, and thus was not a part of last month’s preliminary budget.

The district did not receive this type of grant last year. The grant money will fund 1.9 full-time equivalent positions spread throughout the district, mainly in instructional coaching and support.

“Basically, it’s to help us support some of our interventions that we have in place in regard to our programming and reading, specifically,” Anderson said in a phone interview.

The board also discussed the possibility of growing the district’s community education program by hiring a director for that program who would also provide oversight for the Family Resource Center’s early childhood education program.

The community education program was formerly run by Fred Sailer, who retired at the end of the most recent school year, and early childhood administrative duties had been run by former Heart of the Lakes Principal Kari Yates, who also is no longer with the district.

The proposal was met with resistance by board member Michael Hamann, who felt that the $10,000 set aside for the expanded community education program would be too much and could be spent more effectively elsewhere.

“The only thing we do with community ed is the musical and driver’s ed. Ten thousand dollars wouldn’t be good use of money,” he said.

Hamann went on: “[Detroit Lakes] runs a similar program, and a lot of them get cancelled because of numbers. Unless we’re going to run something that’s really necessary, I don’t see putting a lot of money into it. Early childhood I understand, because that’s where the future is… I just don’t know if there’s a lot of community interest in doing some of these things.”

Other board members, such as Chairperson Myron Roe, disagreed, saying they are frequently asked about Perham’s low number of community education classes.

“There are taxpayers calling me on a weekly basis. People from nearby towns with flyers asking, ‘Why don’t we have this in Perham?’” Anderson said.

Ultimately, a decision was reached when the board agreed to add eight hours of administrative and oversight duties to an early  childhood position that was formerly part-time.

The potential expansion of community education was not decided upon, but Anderson said the board is in talks with nearby school districts about creating a “Lakes Area Community Education” program, since neighboring towns are in similar situations with their programs.

In other news, the board:

-Heard a report from high school Principal Ehren Zimmerman about the REACH program, which is a voluntary, in-school program that attempts to help students with social, emotional, or academic issues. Zimmerman proposed extending the program to the Perham-Dent School District, citing its success in Hutchinson, Minn. The program would be funded by integration funding.

-Approved school photography contracts with Caulfield’s, Thru Him Photography and Photo Magic. Caulfield’s will take school photos, while Thru Him and Photo Magic will photograph fall and winter activities, respectively. A photography contract for spring activities will be decided upon in mid-winter.

-Approved the purchase of custodial equipment totaling $12,000, as well as a roofing project at Perham High School and the installation of new carpet at Heart of the Lakes Elementary and Prairie Wind Middle School.