Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Sept. 27, 1999

No easy solution for LP levy and budget increases

By Luis Puga

Lester Prairie School Board agreed to raise the school district's levy to the maximum allowable amount at last Monday's regular meeting.

Supt. James Redfield noted there is a $42,000 difference in the levy from the previous year. He cited declining enrollment and the change in valuations as the reason for the need for the increase.

It was noted that if the excess levy referendum passes Nov. 2, the numbers for the levy will be changed to levy the referendum amount.

Board Chair Gene Starke called for input on the budget. By the end of the discussion, the board was not able to find cuts, and approved the budget on a 4-1 vote with Board Member Barry Kyllo voting against the motion. Board Member Murl Kletscher was absent for that portion of the meeting.

Redfield noted that revenues are down due to the decline in enrollment. He added that the loss of 10 high school students and 10 elementary students this year would mean about $85,000 less income.

He also said that expenditures are a little higher for the school in some areas such as food service.

Board Member Nancy Krull felt that the board could not continue to keep shortchanging technology. She added that it is important, through either leasing or buying, to have the most current technology possible.

Board Member Fred Blaser said that it would not take much to improve the district's computers, calling the 286-megahertz computers in the media center "door stops."

He noted that even 486-megahertz computers would be an improvement and suggested investigating grants available through Honeywell. However, he also called the 486 models "yesterday's technology."

Kletscher said that leasing computers should be considered.

Kyllo asked how much was budgeted for the coming year, and Redfield replied that the allocation, about $25,000, is for basic updating.

Discussion shifted to a proposed grant writer to be shared between the city and school.

Board Member Chester Hoernemann reported that the city council is considering Pastor John Hogue, but that his initial offer was only to help the city find a grant writer as he is too busy.

Hoernemann also said that the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, which he is part of, has grant writers on staff that the city could contract with.

It was also noted that grant writing is also possible through Prudence Gushwa at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

Redfield asked whether the board should look for its own grant writer, or combine with the city.

Krull said, "I think we should just do it and get it done. I think we're missing the boat on a lot of (grants)."

She added that if the district can cooperate with the city, it should, but wondered if the grant writer they had talked with at a joint meeting with the city, David Drown and Associates, specializes more in municipal grants rather than educational grants.

Kyllo asked whether certain classes could be eliminated because of declining enrollment. Redfield said the decline was not in the certain areas that would allow eliminating sections or electives.

Kyllo then said, "We told our neighbors that we don't need them ­ that we want to run our own district. How are we going to do it without kids?"

Blaser replied that the enrollment moves in cycles. Redfield said that discussion on future planning must be kept at the forefront of the board's mind and at some point soon, it must consider cuts, particularly if there is not a positive vote for the referendum in November.

Hoernemann added that consolidating with the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District might not have changed the situation in terms of costs.

The board instructed the administration to continue to review the budget as the year goes on to find cuts.

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