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Private, public sectors tighten belts

By Staff | Nov 20, 2008

If you’re looking for a job right now, good luck.

Public entities and private businesses are both getting leaner on their payroll, thanks to the downturn in the national economy. And, while Iowa may be somewhat protected from the housing and financial crisis, it is still not immune. A number of recent mortgage foreclosures within the county and flat car sales are proof of that.

The Estherville Lincoln Central Community School District Board of Education eyed its finances at a recent board meeting. While faring better than many other area school districts, business manager Kate Woods took note that if the district had a $1-million unspent balance at the end of the current fiscal year, ending June 30, 2009, it will still have to cut $800,000 from next year’s budget.

Hopefully, some savings can be realized from more energy-efficient buildings and early retirements. Others savings in transportation costs will hopefully be realized as the district moves toward a central campus.

“This is something that’s of concern throughout the whole state,” Superintendent Dick Magnuson said at the Nov. 10 ELC board meeting. Magnuson said the $1-million unspent balance would help keep the district from having to borrow to pay expenses.

With an eye toward saving money, the board at its Nov. 10 meeting approved an early retirement policy. The policy would require staff to give written notice by Jan. 12 if they want a stipend and/or individual and family insurance. Even if all positions were replaced by new staff, the district would save money by paying individuals at a lower level on the step scale.

Magnuson said at least 28 employees could qualify.

As four-year colleges become more expensive, community colleges become more attractive. That’s something that Iowa Lakes Community College and other Iowa community colleges are hoping for as they view a 1-2 percent increase in enrollment over the next five years.

Iowa Lakes President Dr. Harold Prior said at the college’s Nov. 11 board meeting that statewide Iowa community colleges are trying to develop marketing strategies to both prospective students and parents.

One area plant manager who wished to not be named said the plant is asking for six voluntary layoffs until Jan. 1.

“We’re hoping that it’s going to be short-term here,” he said of the layoffs. “We’re trying to work with our employees.”

Dave Petreziniski, human resources director at GKN in Armstrong, said it appears that current staffing levels can be maintained at least through the first quarter of 2009.

“We have been fortunate,” Petreziniski said.