(This page updated on Sept. 30 to clarify total budget reductions between 2005 and 2022.)
We are proud of our success. New London-Spicer Wildcats are known across the state as top performers not only in the arts and athletics but also in academics. We face challenges head on and work together for the benefit of our schools and our community. We owe much of our success to our proactive community members and our dedicated staff who continue to rise to the occasion. Maybe this is why in spite of everything, we saw an uptick in graduation rates this year. In fact, enrollment at NLS has been steady with over 1,500 students since 2018.
We have much to be proud of, but our district is struggling to make ends meet.
- Inadequate state funding increases - Revenue sources are limited and state funding is not keeping pace with inflation.
- Savings account is drained - The cost of federally mandated programs, such as special education, keep increasing, but revenues do not, and our savings account is drained. Without additional revenue, budget cuts will continue.
- No operating levy - Our district, unlike most of our neighboring districts, does not have a voter-approved operating levy in place to help fund our programs.
Why Now? We're Struggling to Make Ends Meet.
In past years, our school board set a very conservative fund balance policy and aimed to operate as lean as possible. While this financial strategy did work at the time, it simply does not work today with under-funded state sources, federally mandated expenditures, increasing expenses, and other unanticipated challenges. Where once a low fund balance (savings account) was not only prudent but appropriate, it is now a detriment to programming and day-to-day operations. We actually have to borrow money to pay our bills, which means we are paying interest on loans just to "keep the lights on" and make payroll.
NLS has the lowest fund balance of our neighboring districts at 1.26%
Our district does not currently have a voter approved operating levy in place and our situation is worsening, despite our efforts. Districts around the state have been turning to operating levy referendums to address the lack of funding in state aid, and to meet the demand for more robust programming. Most of our neighboring districts have a voter-approved operating levy in place with the state average at $849 per pupil.
Budget Cuts Are a Band-Aid -- Not a Sustainable Solution
The district has continuously monitored its financial status and made budget adjustments as needed. Since 2005, we’ve made significant cuts to our budget, reducing programs, people, and salaries by $3.5 million. Of that amount, $1.5 million in budget cuts were made between 2019-2022 alone. Budget reduction spreadsheet with notes.
Budget Cuts Directly Impact Our Students
- Eliminating programs and activities
- Increasing class sizes
- Significantly reducing the number of experienced teachers and staff
These cuts jeopardize the quality of education our children receive and their preparedness for life after graduation.
- Without additional revenue, more significant budget reductions are on the horizon.
2022-23 proposed cuts total another $935,475
- As long as expenses continue to increase more quickly than revenue, more budget cuts will be needed in future years
Although we have been aggressive in making cuts to our budget to address our financial situation, the state of Minnesota may get involved in district operations if it continues to worsen. The district is attempting to avoid entering Statutory Operating Debt (SOD) by making significant budget reductions. When a district finds itself in SOD, the state of Minnesota gets involved in district operations and if the district cannot turn its fund balance around and continues deficit spending, they can lose state and federal aid.
Following the 2020 referendum which was not approved by voters, New London-Spicer Public Schools began an extensive community engagement process including a community-based task force and a community survey that provided feedback to the school board on how to address the financial situation. An operating levy referendum was decided as the best option to keep costs low to the taxpayer, while directly addressing the educational programming and financial future of New London-Spicer Schools.