When the District 88 School Board talked Thursday about the "bleeding" in the school district's finances over the past few years, here's what they meant. Last year, the district cut the budget by $1.3 million, after a failed referendum. The year before, they cut it by $895,000 The year before that they cut it by $700,000. Each year the amount is going up.
As a result, there will be 100 sections in New Ulm High School (grades 7-12) with 30 or more students. In the elementary schools, three grades will have an average class size of 29 to 30 students. Program offerings have been cut, material purchases have been cut, fees for participation have been raised, higher paid teachers have been given early retirement incentives, and still the budget outlook is bleak. More cuts will be made next year.
So the board is asking the district's voters for another tax levy referendum, a $575 per pupil unit question that will reduce the amount of cuts that will be needed next year. With the passage of the referendum, the district would be able to hold steady at the miserable level it is at this year.
What the district needs is a transfusion, that is, it needs enough money to start bringing down class sizes and restoring programs for students. What it is asking for is a bandage, a tourniquet, something to keep things from getting any worse than they are.
Just remember, the school district is a big part of New Ulm. It is one of the legs that allows New Ulm to stand tall and proud. Allowing it to wither away will only make all of us weaker.