Watertown School District Superintendent Lesli Jutting told about 350 people on Monday the public budget work session wasn’t a meeting she wanted to have.
“I wish I could have you here for another event but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” Jutting said. “This is our best attempt to cut $1.2 million (from K-12 education) and do the least amount of harm to our students and staff.”
She can look at every item on the list of potential budget reductions from the general fund and justify why the district needs to keep it. Jutting can also provide a story about every item on the list along with the effect it has had on a student.
“There’s nothing that I want to cut,” she said. “We have been told by our governor and our legislators that we have to do this. This list is not final but it’s a starting point. We also know that kids may be hurt in the end.”
Jutting said it has taken the district four years to reach the current level of programming and the community needs to understand the board is doing its best in making the cuts.
“Next year if we continue with this process, we aren’t even going to be able to do this,” she said. “We’re going to be talking about class sizes of 35 to 40 students and very few programs for kids if we continue in this downhill plunge. That’s sad in my mind because our kids are our future and they’re the only legacy we leave behind.”
Jutting said she doesn’t know the number of staff positions that will be eliminated because the board wants to keep as many as possible through attrition and those who are moving or leaving the district.
“But there will be 27 positions that won’t be here next year across all of the different budget areas that we have just begun to talk about,” Jutting said.
She said the board tried to look at every department and area to make the best decisions it could.
“This is not a meeting of us versus you,” Jutting said. “It’s a meeting of this is our school and what kind of school do you want?”
School Board President Dave Linngren was pleased with the large turnout for the 90-minute budget work session. He’s only seen a crowd of about 350 people once before in his 16 years on the board.
“I’ve been at many budget meetings,” Linngren said. “Usually we’re the only ones there along with the administration. Watertown has always been very proud of its school district, and I think that we’ll rise to the occasion. We will get through this.”