If the referendum doesn’t pass, what happens?
After cutting $8.5 million over the last three years, we have cut all the fat and are down to the bone. We already know what the state has approved for funding for the next two years, and it will not keep pace with inflation. Last year, we had a $1.7 million deficit, and we used $700,000 in pandemic funding to maintain services to students. Without new revenue, we can expect another $1-$1.7 million in reductions. This will be the fourth year of budget cuts; we can’t trim around the edges. We need to look at significant restructuring and changes for the future. The Citizens Task Force prioritized the following:
Schedule changes at the high school and elimination of more electives
Students currently register for 15 credits per year (60 possible credits over 4 years) with 52 credits required to graduate. Of the 52 minimum credits for graduation, 16 are electives. With additional budget cuts, electives would be reduced to up to 75% (4-12 fewer elective credits) over the 4 years. Cuts would impact career-technical education, family and consumer science, personal finance, business, world languages, art, band, choir, physical education, and electives in English, math, science and social studies. Note that such a change will likely impact K-8 programming and schedules as well.
Who will decide what electives are cut? In part, the state, which has clearly defined requirements. A Minnesota diploma has minimum requirements in math, English, social studies, science, physical education, and fine arts. All other courses would be “market-driven” based on student enrollment choices.
Reduce academic support programs — those that provide a lifeline to students who are below grade level. Many of these federal or grant funded programs require matching funds from the district—and if district funds are eliminated grant funds are gone the next year. This includes targeted reading supports, smaller group interventions and supports, coordination and professional development of intervention/accelerated programming, and “second scoop” of academics that provide students who are below grade level additional instructional time in math and reading to accelerate their learning.
Increased facility use fees to cover utilities and increased custodial services for groups who rent or use facilities
Our youth sports teams are already struggling with fees imposed during the 2021 budget reduction process. However, fees are the only area the district has to collect additional revenue to cover costs for utilities, facility maintenance and custodial time.
Eliminate some middle school activities and increase activity fees
Some middle school activities have already been cut and combined with high school teams. More could be eliminated completely or fees would need to increase enough to cover the costs of transportation, coaches, referees, and equipment. This year First Bank and Trust of Cambridge donated $10,000 to avoid potential activity fee increases for students, and we appreciate their generosity.
Eliminate specialty choice programs and reconfigure school grade levels
Over the last two year, we eliminated the middle school year-round school (MN Center) and the year round schedule for School For All Seasons. Working with families from School For All Seasons, we were able to save the program, keep students together and continue its focus on science and the environment. However, without additional funding, this program can no longer be sustained. Consideration will also be given to reconfiguring grade levels at schools and possibly shifting some boundaries for increased efficiencies in administration, district supports, and transportation. For example K-4 schools, moving fifth graders to middle schools, shifting boundaries as more growth is occurring in the southern part of the district will all be on the table for discussion if additional cuts are needed in the future.
Two-Mile Walk Zone
State funding is intended to pay for transportations for students who live two miles or more from school. In Cambridge-Isanti, we have historically provided transportation for students who live more than one mile from school. Without additional funding, we will begin considering a policy change to a two-mile walk zone.
Over the last three years, the district has reduced expenses by $8.5 million (on a $60 million budget). Budget reductions have resulted in larger class sizes, less individual attention for students, higher student fees, fewer teachers and staff, and reductions in critical supports for students who struggle.