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School board sets spending cut target for 2010-11

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

At Monday night's regular meeting, the school board approved a $365,340 budget reduction for the next school year. What exactly will be cut from the budget will be worked out by administrators in the next few months. The school board will have the final say on those specific cuts in March.

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The school district's $30,816,238 budget for 2010-11 anticipates a shortfall of more than $1 million.

Several factors for the shortfall include another expected decline in per-pupil state aid, declining enrollment (which also results in less state aid), and less money coming from the federal and state governments for Title 1 and special education funding.

The good news, if there was any, was pointed out by Superintendent Tom Westerhaus.

Because of big savings in two key areas -- contract settlements and energy savings -- Westerhaus said the cuts will not be anywhere as deep as administrators were bracing for.

Those savings amounted to $722,462, leaving about $365,000 to be shaved from next year's budget.

"It's still a very large number and it will impact kids, families and the staff," Westerhaus admitted.

Westerhaus added that the school district hasn't brought on the ongoing financial problems, but is a victim of the current recession that's affecting local governing bodies across the state and nation.

"We haven't caused this, be we are dealing with it," he said.

Monday night the school board approved two-year contract deals for its secretaries and principals.

The secretaries got an overall increase of 3.5%, with most of the money coming in the form of higher contributions from the district for health insurance premiums.

The principals' pay was frozen this year. Next year part of their increase will be based on performance incentives.

School board President Dennis Behnke said the district will begin asking other employee groups to consider performance-based incentives in their contracts.

Look for more on this story in the print edition of the Journal that comes out before the week before New Year's.

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