D-15 Might Cut Music Programs, Trim Staff
District 15 is considering $9.6 million in cuts to balance its budget.
School District 15 could eliminate dozens of teaching positions in an effort to balance its budget.
Music and arts would be the hardest hit programs, with district officials listing the elimination of elementary school band and orchestra as a possibility. The cuts also would increase class sizes in kindergarten through 8th grade.
District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson led a public forum on the topic Monday. School officials want to close a projected $9.6 million deficit in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
About 75 people attended the forum. Many had questions and suggestions for district officials. Alex Kaempen said that one reason he and his wife moved into District 15 in October 2009 was because of the schools and the music program.
"I can't possibly imagine getting rid of music. My wife and I would definitely plan on moving out of the district to another one that has those opportunities," Kaempen said. "I wouldn't deprive children of the opportunities that I had."
Although District 15 has a significant budget deficit, the district also has about $55 million in reserves. However, district officials project that those fund balances will erode down quickly — to about $4.8 million by 2016 — if the deficit is not dealt with.
"I think that it is great the district is opening up lines of communication," Palatine resident Tracey Coleman said. "They've done a good job of managing their expenditures all along, so it does come down to the hard stuff."
The forum lasted about two hours with Thompson taking questions from the audience the bulk of the time. Many of the suggestions from the audience to reduce costs crossed into areas that would have to be negotiated with one of the district's five collective bargaining units, including the the teachers' union.
The teachers' union contract is in its final year and a new contract will be negotiated, but that will not happen until after the school board is expected to vote on the budget cuts in March.
"A little of all of our frustrations is that some of the solutions we can't really work on yet because of the timing of things," Thompson said.
Among the possible options presented by Thompson Monday:
- The loss of 21 teaching positions through attrition.
- The loss of another 28 teaching positions.
- Increasing average class sizes for kindergarten to 6th grade to 28 and increasing average class sizes for 7th and 8th grade to 30.
- The loss of four staff members in art, music and physical education
- The loss of seven staff members by eliminating band/orchestra
"I'm hoping that they consider the pay freeze," Palatine resident Joe Heater said. "Because that's what we really need to do to get the cost and revenue back in line."
Heater said salary increases in the next teachers contract need to correlate to projected revenue for the district and should be tied to something like the Consumer Price Index.
The district's administration is expected to make a final recommendation to the school board on Feb. 8. After the recommendation is made, there will be a 30-day review period before the school board votes on it in March.