School faces brutal budget reality

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


It was a somber meeting of the Caledonia School Board March 18 when the governing body adopted recommendations that address a projected $350,000 deficit for the 2013-14 school year.

The action calls for eliminating the equivalent of three teaching positions, increased athletic fees, eliminating jazz band and other measures – all fueled by the decrease in student population.

The district anticipates 40 fewer students next year. With each student bringing in anywhere from $5,824 to $6,791 – depending on grade level – the loss of revenue quickly adds up.

Declining enrollment has been a problem for the district since 2004 when the student population was 915. Each year the number has dropped. Caledonia currently has 695 students.

“As a person, this is very difficult to do; however, as superintendent, this is what I have to do – to make recommendations,” Superintendent Ben Barton began.

He said a thorough process was used to evaluate all options and included a team of stakeholders. The complete list of cuts addresses everything from reducing the printer cartridge budget to cutting two assistant coaching positions. See “Administrative Budget Recommendations” for the full list of cuts.

Barton went through each and every recommendation with the school board and offered details on each item. When it came time to vote, not a single comment was shared and the vote was unanimous (one absent) to adopt the recommendations as presented.

“What you’re seeing today is our best projection and our best recommendation,” Barton said. “This is a starting point that, in my mind, is worst-case scenario.”

If the legislature were to change school funding, for example, the picture could improve. The district is also working to secure a reading grant.

Another point Barton made is that certain funds can’t be repurposed. For example, money in the food service fund cannot be used to pay a science teacher’s salary.

Administrative Budget Recommendations


Natural attrition due to decrease in student population: $109,622

– Subtract .2278 MS/HS business

– Subtract .3432 HS English

– Subtract .2574 MS/HS PE/Health

– Subtract .1716 HS science

– Subtract 1 elementary K-1 position

– Subtract .1716 Elementary PE

Eliminate MS reading: $69,124

Eliminate five out of 10 summer days for HS counselor: $1,805

Eliminate five out of 10 summer days for HS guidance

secretary: $690.50

Title One: $10,000

Title Two: $1,500

Houston County Collaborative: $27,000

Two HS paraprofessionals: $16,400

30 minute per week reducation for ed assistants: $5,337

Reduce work experience budget: $15,000

$1 increase in home ticket prices: $7,730

(Three Rivers Conference decision)

12.5 percent increase in season pass: $1,372

$10 increase in athletic participation fee: $4,237

$10 increase in activity participation fee: $500

Reducation of two asst. coaches: $4,552

(Asst. boys soccer; MS girls soccer)

Elimination of jazz band: $3,441

50 percent elem. media ed. asst.: $8,000

Reduce bus route to Hokah alternative learning center: $36,000

Reduce supply budget 10 percent : $5,859

Reduce copier budget: $7,000

Reduce legal and accounting fees: $7,500

Reduce travel budget: $5,000

Reduce printer cartridge budget: $1,000

Reduce paper budget: $1,500

Eliminate vehicle cellphone budget: $600

Reduce district office supply budget: $1,500