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Comment sought on Corsica opt-out renewal

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Comment sought on Corsica opt-out renewal
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

CORSICA -- Corsica school officials will present information about the district's proposal to renew its current opt-out at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at the high school's Classroom A.

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The five-year, $100,000 annual opt-out will expire in July, so the school district is looking at renewing the opt-out for a minimum of $100,000 annually, Superintendent Vern DeGeest said. The length of the extension needs to be determined.

The renewal is being sought to maintain Corsica's programs, but also to prepare for a potential 5 percent cut in state aid that was proposed by former Gov. Mike Rounds.

"We think we have a quality education for our school and we want to continue that. But it wouldn't be possible unless we continue with the opt-out," DeGeest said. "If there's no increase in state aid or a reduction in state aid, which has even been voiced at times, a person may have to take another look at things."

Voters approved the original opt-out in July 2006 after the school board's decision to enact the measure was referred to a public vote, business manager Merna Bye said.

Opt-out money is used for the general fund to pay for the district's operating expenses. The district's general fund budget for 2010-11 is $1.49 million.

Corsica is facing a potential state aid drop from $4,804.60 per student this year to $4,564.37 next year, Bye said. That translates to a decline in total state funding of $809,575 to $712,042.

Declining enrollment is another reason being used to justify the opt-out. K-12 student numbers dropped from 171 to 161 in the past year, DeGeest said.

Any subsequent drop in state aid caused by fewer students could force the district to cut some education programs -- a decision that it can't afford to make, he said.

The district has engaged in cost-cutting measures, such as no raises the past year and sharing some teachers with Stickney. Only two administrators exist, with DeGeest also serving as elementary principal and Scott Muckey as secondary principal.

Several years ago, the district experienced major staff reductions when cuts were needed, DeGeest said.

"We're trying to hold on because we know how important the school is to our community," he said.

The school district has $450,000 in its cash reserves that would carry the district for three months, Bye said.

The meeting will occur before the school board's meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Corsica school board members plan to make a decision closer to when the Legislature wraps up its session and district officials know how much state aid will be provided for 2011-2012.

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