Grand Forks School Board weighs budget reduction, early retirement concerns – Grand Forks Herald

Posted: December 16, 2020 at 12:56 am


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Grand Forks school administrators are studying ways to reduce the districts budget by $3.2 million next year, as directed by the boards Finance Committee.

Brenner outlined the process and the timeline for making budget reduction decisions at the boards regular meeting Monday, Dec. 14.

Taking into account inflation and other factors, we are really faced with an 8 to 12% gap between revenue and expenses for the next two years, Brenner said. With a current expense budget of about $112 million, realizing a $10 million reduction in expenses is going to be a heavy lift, because about 85% of the districts expenses are tied to salaries, he said.

District administrators are using a tiered approach to identifying budget savings, with Tier 1 being attrition; Tier 2, low-enrollment courses; and Tier 3, positions.

We want to stay as far away from Tier 3 as possible, Brenner told the board.

Recent discussions with local state lawmakers have indicated that no increase in per-pupil aid in year 1 and a 1% increase in year 2 are possible, said Scott Berge, business manager for the district.

Per-pupil funding (accounts for) about two-thirds of our total revenue, so its a significant portion, Berge said.

District administrators plan to gather input from Grand Forks Education Association members, teacher-leaders and classified staff members Jan. 12-20 and present budget reduction concepts to the School Board for feedback at its Jan. 25 meeting, Brenner said.

During a discussion about possibly rescinding the districts early retirement policy, several teachers urged the board to retain the policy, maintaining that to do so would, over time, save the district money.

The long-standing policy allows teachers who have been employed for a certain number of years and who are qualified, to apply for early retirement benefits, which are paid out in equal portion annually over four years.

Fifty-six teachers qualify to apply for the benefit this year; among them, 13 have become eligible to apply this school year, according to Melissa Buchhop, GFEA president.

The application deadline is Jan. 15.

Three teachers have already submitted paperwork for the benefit, Buchhop said. It is not fair to long-term teachers to rescind the policy at this time.

Penny Tandeski, who has worked for the district for 31 years and has submitted her retirement notice, said It seems loyalty means nothing and urged the board to find other ways to solve budget woes.

To rescind the policy now is like ripping the rug right out from under me, she said, and doing so with basically no warning, to say is crushing is an understatement.

Said Berge: We have a lot of difficult decisions ahead of us (including possibly cutting) individual classes, entire programs, staffing facilities, along with other adjustments we may have to make.

(During a time when) we have a shortage of teachers, it doesnt make sense to encourage teachers to retire, said Doug Carpenter, member of the boards Finance Committee.

We may have to look at each persons application and ask, Is that a hard-to-fill position? Thats another way of doing this.

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Grand Forks School Board weighs budget reduction, early retirement concerns - Grand Forks Herald

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December 16th, 2020 at 12:56 am

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