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By cutting $1.7 million from next year’s budget, District 202 administrators hope to avoid any more bloodletting for at least a few years.
“We have anticipated another round of cuts to keep the budget balanced . . . but we have looked in every way we could to minimize the effect on the classroom and classroom teachers,” Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, told the District 202 Finance Committee, comprised of the entire School Board, on Jan. 29.
According to the presentation, 26.7 percent of the reductions “will have a direct impact on the classroom.”
“(Making cuts) every year makes long range planning difficult,” said Dr. Witherspoon. “By making . . . cuts this year . . . (we hope) not to make any other cuts for three to five years,” he said.
Future District deficits are due to a number of factors. According to District 202 Chief Financial Officer William Stafford, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to determine tax caps, was 2.5% this year. The CPI is based primarily on the cost of goods, rather than labor, which comprises the majority of the District’s expenses, so the amount the District is able to levy does not match cost increases because the cost of labor has risen more quickly than the cost of goods.
Mr. Stafford also cited higher projected teacher salary expenses based on “the requirements of the current contract and its retirement provisions.” Finally, Mr. Stafford said that the district lost $383,000 in interest income this year because of actions by state legislators which delayed sending of tax bills.
“We’ve done a lot of work on long range planning,” said Mr. Stafford. “Long range planning only does you any good if you make decisions to change the future.”
Mr. Stafford reminded the Committee of the principles which have guided budget reductions in the past.
“First, avoid reductions in the classroom as much as possible,” he said, “and . . . second, make sufficient budget reductions to avoid major budget issues for the next three to five years.”
Three areas have been identified for expense reduction: management, support staff/professional services and certified teachers.
Management cost reductions: $800,180
Mr. Stafford said that the District will be able to save $553,456 in pension system penalties that would have been paid for three administrators who have postponed their retirement for one year. If an employee who participates in the Illinois Teachers Retirement System (TRS) retires before age 60 and before he or she has served for 35 years, the District is required to make a one-time contribution to TRS on their behalf of 23.5 percent of salary for every year that the employee is under the age of 60.
For example, if an employee retires at 58, with 25 years of service earning $150,000 a year, the District has to make a one time payment to TRS of $70,500. According to Mr. Stafford, the three administrators who agreed to postpone their retirement for a year will all either reach age 60 and/or 35 years of service after next year, which will mean that the payment is no longer necessary.
Because of a reorganization in the Information Technology department, two management positions will be eliminated, for a savings of $246,724 in salaries and benefits.
Cuts in support staff and professional services: $242, 430
Further savings will be realized as a result of Oakton Community College’s assumption of the Adult and Continuing Education program eliminating the need for three staff positions. Also, Information Technology consulting expenditures will be reduced by $55,000 for a total of $242,430 in support staff and professional services.
Certified teacher reductions and retirement turnover: $682,616
The administration is recommending that the number of certified teachers at ETHS be reduced by 6 positions, for a savings of $461,616. “We haven’t identified the specific positions yet, because we need to go through sectioning (assignment of students to classes),” said Mr. Stafford. “Our emphasis will be on attrition. There are certain areas where there are retiring teachers who we may not replace.”
Mr. Stafford also explained that savings of $221,000 will be realized because any new teachers hired to replace retiring teachers would “be hired in a lower salaries.”
The administration asked the Committee if they had a preference for cutting teachers in a particular program or “across the board.”
“The approach we’re taking right now is through sectioning, to maintain the programs we have now and look for efficiencies,” said Dr. Witherspoon.
Board members Margaret Lurie and Missy Fleming both commented that they did not feel they had enough information yet about what would be lost if either approach was taken.
“I’m not sure we’re qualified to do that,” said Ms. Lurie. “I would like to see some recommendations from administrators as to programs they think are not working.”
“Across the board sounds better, but I don’t have enough information,” said Ms. Fleming. “Your approach is let the data tell us the story, you’ll bring it back to us like you always do, we can have a more comprehensive dialogue and make a decision at that point. That would be more comfortable,” she concluded.