H-BC district cuts six non-certified staff

Board members at Hills-Beaver Creek voted to terminate six non-certified positions at their special meeting on Monday night.

District positions cut as of the completion of the past year school year are paraprofessionals Shari Doerr, Brianna Leuthold, Sherry Paulsen and Sheila Sawtelle, school nurse Lois Leenderts, and bus repair person Doug Boeve.

The recommendation to terminate these individuals first appeared on the agenda at a board meeting on Monday, May 29. Based on public comments during that meeting, the board decided to delete the matter from their agenda and revisit it during a special meeting a week later.

These cuts decrease the district’s payroll by nearly $100,000.  An additional $20,000 in savings comes from the resignation of library aide Marilyn Nelson. At previous meetings it had been discussed that the district intended to reduce the payroll by $300,000. This area makes up 85 percent of the total budget.

In a memo released at the meeting it was stated that Phase 2 of the budget cutting process was the proposed termination of all non-certified paraprofessional employees that are not funded using federal grants or Minnesota special education funding and other positions not mandated by the state. The targeted amount for this phase was $124,000.

The memo, submitted by interim Superintendent Herb Benz, stated, “I believe the total dollar amount recommended for budget cuts is necessary and appropriate.”

It went on to explain that the administration used the principle of seniority unless there was substantial evidence that a less senior employee was a significantly better employee. He said the board has the authority to terminate different employees, as long as the total dollars saved is the recommended $124,000.

The board voted unanimously for all six terminations. Lois Leuthold abstained during the Brianna Leuthold vote. James Kueter abstained during the Sherry Paulsen vote, and Tim Baker abstained during the Lois Leenderts vote.

Phase 1, as detailed on the sheet, included recommendations to reduce the payroll cost for certified employees by $140,000.

The memo explained that cuts were less at the high school “due to the need to have at least one class of each elective course to allow students to meet their course needs to prepare for post-high school educational training and careers.”

It went on to point out that the state gives 30 percent more funding for students in grades seven through 12.

Phase 3 is when the district will use items submitted from the “Deficit Reduction Suggestions” to make $20,000 in cuts.


Dean of Students eliminated

The memo released at the meeting informed the public of district administrative cuts.

Currently the administration team consists of an elementary principal, dean of students, part-time high school principal/part-time superintendent.

It was presented that the Dean of Students position will not exist in the upcoming school year.

This individual will not be terminated but will return to the classroom to teach courses taught by a non-renewed high school teacher.

The remaining two administrators will have to fulfill their principal duties but also fill the roles of community education director, technology director and curriculum coordinator.

Benz’s memo dedicated two paragraphs to speak toward the future.

“For the next three to five years, the job of the two school administrators will be very difficult. It will take constant monitoring and diligence to keep the school district on track to wipe out the accumulative deficit and to build up a significant general fund reserve. In addition, Minnesota Department of Education is committing Minnesota school districts to a much higher level of student learning, curriculum revision and monitoring to meet the changes proposed in the state’s plan for a wavier of the federal No Child Left Behind mandate. Also, the State Legislature has passed a new law that mandates a completely new teacher evaluation system with greater accountability and much greater supervision by the school principal.”

He continued, “Any further reduction of the school administrative team would make the successful completion of their jobs difficult. If the school board were to make further administrative budget cuts, I would not be surprised that this would jeopardize finding an elementary principal or keeping Mr. (Todd) Holthaus as an employee of the school district. I will certainly give Mr. Holthaus an excellent recommendation for any future position he might seek.”


Total deficit estimated at $450,000

Benz stated that the district has added approximately $150,000 per year to the total general fund deficit and that he expects that total to be around $450,000 at the close of the fiscal year on June 30.

The recommendation to cut $300,000 for next school year would stop the annual $150,000 loss and add another $150,000 that will be used to reduce the accumulative budget deficit. He projects that after three budget years the district should be out of deficit spending and can start building up the general fund reserve.

Based on his expertise and his interactions with the state, he said, “Any backing away from the recommended $300,000 budget cuts would be fiscally irresponsible and not meet with the Minnesota Department of Education’s approval.”

Benz also noted his two-hour meeting with the Minnesota Department of Education. During this meeting MDE approved the targeted $300,000 in reductions for the 2012-13 general fund budget.

Benz asked if the deficit reduction amounts could be reduced on the assumption that a referendum levy would meet voter approval. In the memo Benz states, “MDE is emphatic that a proposed Statutory Operating Debt Plan cannot assume that additional revenue will be approved by the voters of the school district.”

It goes on to say the proposed plan must eliminate the negative fund balance in two to three years without the possibility of additional revenue from a referendum election.

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