Officials begin task of balancing Swanville School budget

By Kerry Drager, Correspondent

Swanville School continues to brace itself for the changes that need to occur while under Statutory Operating Debt (SOD). The Minnesota Department of Education would like to see schools out of SOD in three years. The district is working to increase revenue and pull the numbers out of the red.

“We are at that point that any cuts we do are going to negatively affect our programs,” said Supt. Gene Harthan. “Our budget from here on will have to show a surplus.”

Some changes that can occur immediately include working on getting the revenue for 2013-2014 as accurate as possible. There has been some discrepancy in the figures due to the overestimating of pupil attendance numbers. The district must work toward accuracy in order for budget numbers to be balanced.

A second referendum may be the school’s only option out of debt, according to Harthan.

“If we are really serious about getting out of this, we’re going to have to ask for another referendum,” said Harthan. “It’s something we have to seriously look at. We’re going to close up or we have to consolidate if we don’t do this. It’s going to be hard to cut more than what we already have. I think we can make some more cuts, but then it’s going to be real ugly.”

Because the school is in SOD,  a special election may be held in the spring or with the General Election in November. If the referendum is voted in, it will not go into effect until 2015. Until then, the district will have to continue to make cuts. For next year this will likely occur within the teaching staff, said Harthan.

The district’s current referendum will not be paid off until 2020.

Swanville School Board Briefs

Other news that came before the Swanville School Board, included:

• Learning that administrative staff attended the “World’s Best Workforce” meeting and discussed changes being made to the MCA tests. A college entrance exam will replace the MCA for high school juniors. More information about these changes will be discussed at future meetings;

• Approving the hiring of a paraprofessional for a 4.5 hour daily position;

• Hearing that Molly Springs Alternative School students have been busy with holiday activities for their community event at the Senior Center;

• Approving the levy for taxes payable in 2014 in the amount of $717,800.91, a $73,782.76 decrease (9.32 percent) from 2013;

• Learning that the committee meeting between Upsala and Swanville is set for Jan. 29, 2014, to discuss any issues or concerns with the combined sports teams; and

• Learning Jan. 13-17, 2014, will be Random Act of Kindness Week. Students are encouraged and rewarded for helping others during this event.

The next regularly scheduled Swanville School Board meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.