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Budget shortfalls mean some tough decisions

At a special meeting to discuss budgetary options for the Ellsworth School District on Jan. 8, the school board determined the district will not go to the voters with a referendum in April of this year.

At this meeting, the school board reviewed the November, 2008, referendum, the process in which the questions were developed and proposed to the public, and the current economic situation in our district and nation.

Due to the projected budgetary shortfalls for the 2009-2010 school year, the school district administration has begun the process of evaluating current programs and expenditures for the 2009-2010 school year. During this process, the administration will evaluate a large number of options for possible reductions to balance the budget. In the upcoming weeks, we will find out much more regarding the state budget and the funding of our schools. These decisions are not easy ones for anyone involved in the process. It will mean reductions in programs and services currently available for our students and community. At the same time, it will mean we will need to eliminate the jobs of some very valuable employees.

As we all know, the issues described above are not just part of our schools today. They are widespread in all areas of our economy. Jobs are being lost in all sectors of our economy, homes are being lost and personal savings are disappearing. At the same time, it is important to recognize budgetary reductions are not new to our schools. The school system has made roughly $3 million in cuts since 2002, including the closing of two elementary schools and the elimination of staff. The reductions we will make are necessary and will not be without controversy. The goal in this entire process must be to maintain the integrity of our educational program.

Students in our schools today cannot re-do their education later due to our current economic crisis. As a school and community, we owe it to our children to offer a well-rounded, quality program that prepares them for the future. Quality schools are needed for the future of our nation and the quality of life in our community. At this time, a committee made up of citizens, school board members and school staff is being convened to discuss the options for budgetary reductions and the ongoing budgetary challenges our school district will face due to our declining enrollment and state finance system. Members of our Long Range Planning Committee, that was developed in 2006, are currently being invited to participate in this process that will occur over the next few months. There may be some openings on this committee due. If any citizen of the Ellsworth School District is interested in becoming part of this committee, I encourage you to contact me at the administrative offices at 273-3900. Meetings will run from late January through early April and provide much information regarding the school district's budget, state school finance system and long range needs of the district.