SAUK RAPIDS -- The Sauk Rapids-Rice school district is looking at a nearly $4.5 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year.

Superintendent Brad Bergstrom says the district has been deficit spending for three years now since the decision was made to put a cap on open enrollment.

Our enrollment has not rebounded to the point that we were hoping for, so what we're losing in terms of open enrollment each year, what we get in residential growth is not keeping up with that, in fact it's lagging behind.

He says to close the gap the district will use $1.5 million in one-time federal relief money, $1.5 million in savings, and they'll have to make about $1.5 million in cuts.

He says it's not a long-term solution to the now three-years worth of deficit spending.

Eventually, these decisions are going to have to be made.  We're going to have to try and lower our expenses or we're going to have to increase our revenue.  So, these one-time dollars, in particular from the federal government, are just deferring it for a year, but it's what we're going to use for the upcoming year.

Bergstrom says they'll do what they can to not have to eliminate staff.

When 80 percent of your budget involves people, it is likely that people might be impacted.  But, what we are doing for this round is we are using that as a last resort.

Bergstrom says workers who retire or resign from the district may not be replaced.

Bergstrom will make his recommendations to the school board at their Monday, April 26th meeting. However, he says at the time there will still be a lot of unknowns like how much money the district will be getting from the state, and negotiations are still ongoing with several of their bargaining units.

The new fiscal year starts on July 1st.

In the future, Bergstrom doesn't really see asking the voters for an operating levy as being an option. He says their first priority is to continue to reduce spending, then find more grant money, and finally try to get students that have open enrolled out of the district to come back to Sauk Rapids-Rice.

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