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School District 65 is planning to reduce expenses by $2.2 million for the school year 2015-16 (FY’16) in light of projected deficits and the financial uncertainty created by proposals and legislation pending in Springfield.

On Feb. 17, Kathy Zalewski, business manager, presented financial projections showing an operating deficit of $407,843 for FY’16 and an operating deficit of $5.9 million for the the next school year FY’17.

At the State level, Governor Rauner’s budget proposals leave a hole in State funding for education. The legislature is also considering a bill that would cut state aid to District 65 by $6.6 million. The legislature is also considering shifting a part of the cost to fund teacher pensions from the State to school districts.

District 65’s plan includes eliminating 29 full-time equivalent positions with an estimated $1.2 million in savings, said the District in a prepared statement. These reductions were approved by the School Board at their March 23 meeting, said the statement.

Effective July 1, staffing cuts include the reduction of 10.5 central office positions including support staff, custodial, and maintenance staff; 6.75 reading specialists; 6 special education teacher assistant positions; and 5.8 building-level staff including one assistant principal, two secretaries, and two curriculum specialists.

All affected staff members were notified last week, said the statement. In addition to the personnel reductions, several positions within the District have been combined and additional responsibilities will be redistributed across departments.

“Even with the reductions, we remain committed to providing quality service to our students, families, and community,” said Superintendent Paul Goren.

“Each person within the organization plays an important role in the education of our children,” said Dr. Goren. “We appreciate their hard work and dedication. However, we are faced with a grim financial picture. We must be prudent and take a close look at all aspects of our budget, including personnel. When looking at different staffing scenarios, we made every effort to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. In this regard, we considered raising class size limits, yet decided against it.”

District administrators are currently reviewing non-personnel expenditures such as supplies and purchased services in an effort to further reduce expenditures in FY’16 by $1 million, said the District.

In total, the District is planning to reduce expenses by $2.2 million (staffing costs and non-personnel expenditures) that will balance the FY’16 budget and allow the District to prepay $1.8 million expenses that would normally be attributable to FY’17. The prepayments may include premiums for workers’ compensation, property liability, and medical insurance.

Assuming that the cuts of $2.2 million made in FY’16 carry through to FY’17 and assuming that $1.8 million in expenses are prepaid for FY’17, the projected operating deficit for FY’17 will be reduced from $5.8 million to approximately $1.8 million.

“We are forced to make tough decisions” in light of the projected deficits and uncertainty with education funding at the State level, said Dr. Goren. “While these changes are difficult, we must act now to be fiscally responsible. These reductions do not take into account any changes the Governor may make or the potential impact of SB1 where the District may lose an additional $6.6 million.”

Administrators plan to recommend cuts in non-personnel expenses at the April 20 Finance Committee meeting. They are scheduled to present a draft budget for FY’16 at the June 8 Finance Committee meeting.