If District 202 administrators are lucky, they will have to cut only $1.6 million to balance the 2010-2011 budget instead of the $3.1 million that will be required if state funding to the District is cut, according to a presentation to the Finance Committee on March 9.

“The school finance environment … [and] the State of Illinois’ financial situation continue to deteriorate,” said William Stafford, District 202 chief financial officer.  In addition, he said, there are “several concerns related to District revenues.”

Mr. Stafford outlined the now-familiar factors that have contributed to the budget woes: the extremely low Consumer Price Index of 0.1 percent that affected the 2008 tax levy; proposed state budget reductions in the wake of Illinois’ $13 billion deficit; and low property tax collection rates resulting from foreclosures and the challenging economy, to name just a few.

In addition, District expenditures will continue to rise, “based mainly on labor agreements that are in place,” reported Mr. Stafford. The $1.6 million cuts would represent 2.5 percent of the District’s $64.3 million operating budget.

Retirements Offer Opportunity for Savings

Assistant Superintendent Oscar Hawthorne said in order to offset the impact of the loss of six teachers in a variety of disciplines, all teachers with release time have agreed to forego some of it so they can spend more time in the classroom. That cooperation has reduced the net loss to only three teachers.

“Instruction is our top priority,” Mr. Stafford said.  “We want to maintain reasonable student-teacher ratios and avoid personnel layoffs wherever possible.”

Mr. Stafford also said that because of the decreased enrollment projected for the District in the next school year, the student-teacher ratio at Evanston Township High School would remain about the same as in recent years, even with the loss of six teachers.

“Our goal is to try to spread the reductions across the organization to avoid concentrated cuts, especially in academic disciplines,” Mr. Stafford reported.

To that end, reductions have been identified in administration ($400K), support services ($71K), instruction ($800K) and central services ($330K).

Administrative cuts will include the Special Education Department chair and an Information Technology administrator.  Three support staff will be cut, and two more will change from a 12- to a 10 month position.  Other savings will come from reductions in expenditures for supplies, food, postage, consulting contracts and summer projects.

Although 50 percent of the reductions are in instruction, that area represents more than 60 percent of expenses, so, in fact, a lesser percentage is being taken from that area than from others, Mr. Stafford said. (See accompanying chart, “Budget Reduction Comparisons.” )

Impact of Potential State Cuts

Mr. Stafford went on to explain that the cuts he was recommending would be enough only if the State came through with the $1.5 million it normally provides to the District. 

“We said we’d give you a Plan B in case they don’t come through,” he said.

In that case, the administration would look at further reductions in personnel, mostly in the staff and administration areas; more employee participation in health-care costs; stipend reductions; and reduced professional development and substitute costs.

“The unfortunate situation we’re in is the state will either make some budget decisions by May, or it may delay all the budget decisions until November.  We just don’t know,” Mr. Stafford explained.  “We wanted to give you our best ideas about where we think we would go if we have to make these additional cuts.”

“While it’s never fun to bring a budget where we have to find reductions,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, “we have gone out of our way to put together some proposals that will have the least impact on the District given our circumstances.”

“I hope that we are looking at our class offerings and our class sizes,” said Board member Martha Burns.  She said she has noticed that some classes have very few students in them, “like a Physics honors class with ten students.”

“That will not be an issue this year,” said Mr. Hawthorne.  Administrators said class sizes and sectioning would be closely monitored, with students more evenly apportioned and class size capped at 28-30 students.

School Year      Enrollment   FTE Teachers   Student-Teacher Ratio

2005-2006          3,164            272.9                   11.59

2006-2007         3,041             271.3                   11.21

2007-2008         2,970            265.8                   11.17

2008-2009         2,942            261.6                    11.25

2009-2010         2,891            262.7                    11.00

                                         Projected

2010-2011        2,893            256.7                     11.27