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Carver-Scott steps toward debt relief
by David Schueller
Feb 11, 2012 | 978 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative in downtown Chaska.
The Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative in downtown Chaska.
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A local school district is in debt – way in debt.

What happens next?

Immediate talks deal with dollars. The more tangible impacts usually are felt in some combination of program cutbacks, shut-tered buildings and lost jobs.

The big question is one of severity.

The debt-ridden Carver-Scott Educational Cooperative is dealing with a could-be-worse situation. That is, the co-op could have been gone if even one district completely pulled out of the cooperative.

However, in the past month, it has appeared to move away from such shaky ground by getting buy-in from its nine member dis-tricts to stay as it moves forward with a 1-1/2-year plan to get out of statutory operating debt and emerge from a $1 million hole. “I think we have the full support of that group,” said Carver-Scott Executive Director Darren Kermes.

Kermes met last week with superintendents of member districts. “We have a tentative plan in place as to how to fund the core functions of the co-op for next year for each of the districts,” he said.

Superintendents agreed to the idea of membership fees, which will generate some revenue, he said.

“We’re going to put numbers to it and come back to them at the end of the month,” Kermes said.

On another front, the Carver-Scott governing board on Jan. 24 approved putting a Chaska building on the market.

The building, owned by Carver-Scott near Chaska Boulevard, is appraised at $1.5 million and houses four special education pro-grams for students in the transitional ages of 18-21. MRCI WorkSource, an adult rehabilitation business at 1045 Stoughton Avenue, rents space in the building that Carver-Scott hopes to sell.

“That would go a long ways toward paying off our debt,” Kermes said.

Another step is making about $500,000 in cuts to administration and office staff. Those cuts could go before the governing board between the end of February and the end of March.

“It’s going to be administrators and office staff,” Kermes said. “We are going to do everything in our power not to cut teachers and our paraprofessionals and support staff.”

Deb Pauly, the Jordan School Board chairwoman and the district’s Carver-Scott representative, said that getting Carver-Scott out of statutory operating debt (SOD) is a work in progress that won’t happen over night.

“The tentative plan that [Kermes] laid out for us is a very good one and very grounded, and will help bring us out of SOD in a pretty good timeframe considering the amount of money that we are under,” Pauly said.

Carver-Scott’s debt was caused by billing errors made over a number of years that came to light in the past couple years.

Also at the Jan. 24 board meeting, members heard a report on a merger between the more financially healthy Minnesota River Valley Special Education Cooperative (MRVSEC) and Carver-Scott.

While talks of a merger have been ongoing for the past few years, Kermes said those talks are a separate issue from Carver-Scott’s debt. “They’re two totally different animals,” he said.

A merger could save money for member districts by reducing duplicative services. Pauly said there is a lot of overlap between the two. “It just makes sense to combine them under one umbrella,” Pauly said.



ALC CHANGES

Another tangential issue deals with area learning centers (ALCs).

The ALCs are one of several functions served by Carver-Scott. Lately, districts have been taking steps to run their own ALCs.

So far, the Shakopee school district has formally given notice it will open its own ALC with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus. Waconia gave written notice that it will take over Carver-Scott’s ALC. Kermes said he’s waiting for official notice from the New Prague and Eastern Carver County school districts.

Closer to Jordan, Carver-Scott’s ALC in Lydia is going to close after this school year due to a low number of students. About 30 students are based there.

“That’s going to happen regardless,” Kermes said.
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