During its second round of budget information forums, the Community Consolidated School District 15 administration outlined potential budget cuts that could correct its structural deficit problem.
Now the District’s leaders want to hear what stakeholders think of the plan.
Roughly 50 staff and 70 community members attended the two forums, which were held Monday, January 23, at Walter R. Sundling Junior High. During these meetings, Superintendent Scott Thompson explained the District’s financial situation and reviewed a list of potential budget reductions totaling nearly $10 million. The list is intended to guide the District as it works to determine how much to reduce its expenditures for the 2012-13 school year, as recently updated financial forecasts show growing annual budget shortfalls significantly diminishing the District’s reserve funds over the next five years.
The District is projected to run a $6.2 million deficit this year, and without any reductions, a $9.6 million deficit in fiscal year 2012-13. If not addressed, annual budget shortfalls such as these are projected to reduce the District’s current fund balance of about $55 million, which represents roughly 40 percent of its budget, to about $4.8 million, or roughly 3 percent of its budget, by the end of fiscal year 2015-16.
Roughly $3.2 million of the proposed cuts could be made with minor impact on students and programs, but approximately $3.5 million of the reductions that are being considered would directly affect the classroom.
The District’s class size targets are: 20 students for kindergarten, 24 for Grades 1-3, 26 for Grades 4-6, and 28 for Grades 7-8. By strictly adhering to those student-teacher ratios, the District estimates it will be able to save roughly $750,000 and reduce 13 classroom teacher positions next year. Increasing those targets to 26 students for Grades K-6 could save the District an additional $750,000 by allowing it to reduce another 13 teaching positions. Further increasing them to 28 students for Grades K-6 and 30 students for Grades 7-8 could save another $1.4 million through the reduction of another 23 positions. Combined, these measures could save approximately $2.9 million through the elimination of 49 classroom teacher positions (21 of which would be accounted for through upcoming retirements).
Also, reducing the equivalent of four teachers from the District’s art, music, and physical education departments by eliminating travel time to different schools could save about $220,000, and eliminating the District’s elementary band and orchestra programs could save roughly $380,000 by reducing an additional seven teaching positions.
The remainder of reductions to eliminate the $9.6 million deficit would need to be negotiated with the collective bargaining groups that represent most of the district’s employees. In addition to savings obtained through salaries and benefits agreements, reducing the number of program assistants assigned to classrooms and reducing the stipends teachers receive for leading extra-curricular activities are possible solutions to the deficit.
During the January 23 forums, Superintendent Thompson answered questions and discussed possible solutions proposed by those in attendance. Over the next 30 days, the District will continue to solicit feedback from its various stakeholders.
The District’s Leadership Team will use this input to finalize a budget reduction proposal that will be presented at the Board’s February 8 meeting. That presentation will include the list of $10 million in potential budget reductions to keep the District in a strong financial position through at least the 2014-15 school year.
Once the budget reduction proposal is presented to the Board, the District will solicit the community’s feedback on the plan and incorporate that input into a revised proposal for the Board to act upon at its March 14 meeting.
-Story Submitted by Community Consolidated School District 15