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La Crosse Schools still need to cut $2M from budget

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - La Crosse Schools will have $21 million coming into the district since voters approved a 5-year referendum Tuesday.

It's the third referendum voters have given the okay to in 10 years to keep school programming and staff in place.

But district administration is still forced to cut $2 million to keep the budget balanced for this coming school year.

"We're going back to the busy work now of, 'Where do those cuts come from so that they have the least impact on our direct instruction in the classroom?' Quite frankly though, we've cut to the bone," said Steve Salerno, associate superintendent of human resources.

Since the 2009-2010 school year, school district representatives said they've reduced the operating budget by $9 million, eliminated nearly 80 positions district wide, even reduced benefits to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible.

"We really were in the position, had the referendum not passed, to reduce over $6 million. And so (it's) bittersweet to the extent (that) what it allows us to do is to not have to reduce that much. But we will still be reducing," said Superintendent Randy Nelson.

Hopefully this will be the last major cut for a while, Nelson said. But after all the cuts the district has made in the last handful of years, programming will likely be on the chopping block.

"You're really at the point where to trim more is not just about just increasing a little class size here or taking care of something else there. It's really now looking at programs," Nelson said, adding enrollment numbers in high school level courses will be closely examined.

The district plans to have a final list of cuts by the end of the month. Before any of that information becomes public, administrators will talk to the people who will be impacted, according to Nelson.

"That's what gives us our sleepless nights sometimes," Salerno said. He's hopeful this new referendum will keep the district from making more cuts in the near future.

"We're just so blessed to have a community that supports our students and the good work that's being done day in and day out," Salerno said.
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