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Fuhrman to take leave from school board

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Morris Area School Board member and National Guard Sgt. Brent Fuhrman will take a leave of absence related to an expected mobilization for active duty of the Morris-area National Guard unit in early 2009.

The board is expected to accept Fuhrman's request at its regular meeting Monday night. The board also will discuss procedures for filling Fuhrman's board seat.

The Morris Guard unit, which was deployed to Iraq for about a year in 2004, was put on alert for a second mobilization earlier in 2009. No official dates have been released about when the Guard will be deployed for training or where overseas it will be stationed.

The Guard unit will travel to Arkansas for its annual training in February. That and other scheduled training means that Fuhrman would not likely be available to attend meetings after January, he said.

"I'm doing this now to give the board time to find a replacement," Fuhrman said.

Superintendent Scott Monson said the board is required to fill the seat in Fuhrman's absence.

Two years ago, when the board needed to fill a seat with two years remaining, it sought out former members to gauge their interest, reviewed information about the potential candidates, then selected Mike Schmidgall to fill out the term. Schmidgall did not file for reelection this year.

Fuhrman was one of four board members - and the only incumbent -- elected in November. Dick Metzger, James Solvie and Stan Wulf will join the board in January. Along with Schmidgall, incumbents Laura Carrington and John Luetmer did not seek reelection.

In other board business:

The board is expected to approve its budget update for the 2008-2009 school year. The board will be presented the same levy request as it was when the budget was finalized in June, Monson said.

The district's 6.66 percent levy increase will be slightly below the state average. The Minnesota Rural Education Association is estimating an 8 percent average levy statewide, Monson said.

The district's general fund deficit will be higher than what was presented in June, he said.

The district's June budget figures showed a deficit of about $26,500. Because of additional staff being hired and fuel and other expenses, the general fund budget deficit now will be about $51,000, Monson said.

The district's financial picture won't be improving any time soon. The state is making significant cuts to erase a $426 million deficit in its current budget, and forecasts call for a shortfall anywhere between $5 billion and $6 billion for the next biennium. Monson expects to present a budget with no increase in state funding for 2009-2010.

"It'll be challenging," he said.