BEA tackles budget deficit of more than $800,000

Local News

Blue Earth Area (BEA) School District is doing a little spending to chip away at a revised budget deficit estimated to be around $818,000.

School Board members approved an “early retirement incentive” for three teachers and the community education director at their monthly meeting held Monday night.

Superintendent Mandy Fletcher says staff who are eligible and choose to retire will receive $10,000 that will be put into a Health Retirement Account.

“It allows us to replace retiring staff with a less expensive staff member, restructure departments or absorb the retirement without replacing the position,” says Fletcher. “All three of those options give the district the opportunity to save dollars in salary and benefits.”

Fletcher would not say whether a pay freeze for administrators, teachers or other staff is being considered.

Some of the top non-teaching annual salaries include the superintendent at $133,313; high school principal, $105,600; fiscal service coordinator, $99,500; middle school principal, $98,000; assistant middle school principal, $83,000; activities director, $79,272; and school nurse, $70,504.

Negotiators for the School Board and teachers’ union have been holding talks, says Fletcher, and both sides have maintained professionalism.

“I expect to have an outcome shortly that I think everyone —- staff, board and community — can be very proud of,” she says. “One thing that I have seen firsthand throughout this process is the desire for both sides to do right by our students.”

To help identify budget cuts, board members voted to hire the firm of Robert W. Baird Co. Inc., to provide a six-phase process at a cost of $10,500.

“They can take an outsiders point of view and pick apart our finances and really narrow down where we are overspending,” Fletcher says. “They can give a good and unbiased recommendation.”

School district residents may be asked to vote on another operating levy referendum during the upcoming presidential general election this November.

In November 2019, voters rejected a 10-year referendum expected to generate about $900,00 a year.

Fletcher says despite a valiant effort through social media, community meetings and mass mailings, the referendum was narrowly voted down, 756-721.

Board members voted to pay Rapp Strategies Inc., of Minneapolis $9,500 to gather information and determine why the referendum failed.

“It was hard to get the five communities in our district engaged. Rapp Strategies will help guide us so we can be efficient and do what we need to do to unite our communities,” says Fletcher.

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