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Benson School Board to dip into reserves to cover projected deficit in excess of $360,000 for 2008-09

BENSON -- The Benson School District will dip into its general fund reserves next year to cover a $361,500 deficit for the 2008-09 school year.

Superintendent Lee Westrum said Tuesday the Benson School Board approved a 2008-09 budget showing $10,555,400 in revenues but $10,866,900 in expenditures. The board also approved of two new budget reductions worth $50,000 during its Monday regular meeting.

Westrum said the district will cover the deficit from its $2,093,000 in general fund reserves. Westrum said he also expects the district to deficit-spend about $200,000 for the end of the 2007-08 school.

By the end of 2008-09, Westrum said, the district's general fund reserves could be down to $1,550,000 "if everything comes out the way we think it does."

Westrum said the district will make a total of $158,000 in budget reductions in 2008-09. The two reductions added Monday were the eliminations of a probationary social studies teacher and a district school bus route. Combined, Westrum said, the reductions saved the district an additional $50,000.

Other budget cuts included in the 2008-09 budget are the termination of a paraprofessional position after an employee retirement, the reduction of a half-time teacher to quarter-time for the English as a Second Language department, and the teaching reassignment of a high school/middle school mathematics teacher to the elementary school.

Following the district's May 19 meeting, Westrum said he presented "the largest deficit budget I've seen" to the Benson School Board. The deficit was around $400,000 before Monday's approved budget cuts.

Westrum said in May that much of the district's deficit was due to decreasing district enrollment and increasing costs in staff salaries, building maintenance and diesel.