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Lindbergh plans to maintain its focus on the classroom despite funding woes

Tough economic times may bring changes to the Lindbergh School District, but Superintendent Jim Sandfort is confident any changes won't diminish the quality of education the district provides to students.

During a budget workshop last week, Board of Education members reviewed 74 programs with an eye toward reducing costs for the 2004-2005 school year as preliminary expenditures are projected at roughly $1 million more than the current school year, while preliminary revenues are anticipated at about $1.5 million less than the current school year.

For the coming school year, preliminary expenditures are projected at $43,603,074, while preliminary revenues of $39,363,138 are anticipated — a shortfall totaling more than $4.2 million.

Board members spent much of the time during the Feb. 24 workshop discussing ways to balance the budget without dipping too much in the district's projected $19.4 million fund balance.

The anticipated $1.5 million decrease in revenue is a result of the loss of one-time revenue from insurance company sources, an additional projected cut in state funding and a continued loss in revenue because of the gradual phase-out of the voluntary student transfer program.

The projected expenditure increase of roughly $1 million is a result of salary and insurance increases and a mandated increase in state retirement.

"Are we considering everything? Yes,'' said Pat Lanane, assistant superintendent and the district's chief financial officer.

"Everything'' includes reducing expenditures, possible use of previously rolled-back tax funds and dipping into the district's fund balance.

Other possibilities include using a six-year cycle for books instead of a five-year cycle; increasing the cost for school lunches, trimming summer school offerings; and charging for the use of activity buses.

Board members agreed to consider all options, but directed the administration to formulate a budget for the 2004-2005 school year that focuses on the classroom.

"Going into this year's budget process, we knew there would be the need to continue to slow the rate of budget growth, and that additional reductions would be required,'' the superintendent said, noting that the board is beginning the budget process about two months ahead of its normal schedule.

"To do this without risking the educational quality of our programs will be a more difficult task this year. We wanted to get a head start on the process and ensure there will be sufficient time for a thorough analysis,'' Sandfort added.

Board members and administrators agreed that any spending reductions will be evaluated so students' learning opportunities will not be compromised.

"We don't want to take teachers out of the classroom,'' Lanane said. "We can accomplish what we need to do and still be conservative. We're still a year away from painful cuts.''

The next step in the budget process will be for the administration to present a final recommendation to the Board of Education for a balanced budget at another workshop with final adoption of a balanced budget to be considered by the school board in June.

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