On March 22, the District 65 School Board unanimously approved a list of proposed cuts in expenses for the 2021-2022 school year (FY’22) totaling about $1.9 million. These proposed cuts were discussed at the March 8 Board meeting. Articles are available here and here.

Cuts of $1.9 million would cover the projected shortfall for FY’22.

At the same meeting, Superintendent Devon Horton said administrators had agreed to forgo salary increases for FY’22. That will save the District an additional $160,000 next year. Additional cuts at the administrative level are expected.

In February, Kathy Zalewski, the District’s Business Manager, presented financial projections that forecast that the District would operate at a deficit of $1.9 million for FY’22, and that the deficit would grow to $15 million in FY’26 – if action is not taken to increase revenues or reduce expenditures.

The Approved Cuts for FY’22

The approved cuts are in 27 areas. Some of the major ones are:

  • Replacing 22 reading specialist positions with 18 interventionists, for a net reduction of 4 positions ($320,000);
  • reducing bus transportation costs by changing the start time of the middle schools from 8:30 to 8:00 a.m. and pairing bus routes ($415,000);
  • reducing the cost of maintaining building and grounds through efficiencies and negotiating better prices ($426,000);
  • cutting three library media assistants ($106,000);
  • eliminating one staff position and reorganizing support in the early childhood area ($122,000);
  • replacing Camp Timber-lee with a day program ($50,000).  

The list proposes cuts in other areas, many of which relate to cutting back on consultants and other purchased services (about $130,000), reducing expenses for professional learning (about $165,000), and reducing expenses for supplies (about $60,000).

At the Board meeting on March 22, Dr. Horton provided an update on an equity analysis of the proposed cuts and said the District fared well. Administrators provided additional information about how an equity analysis of the reduction in interventionists would be conducted and monitored going forward. They also explained how before- and after-school programs would be handled at the middle schools if the start time was changed from 8:30 to 8:00 a.m.

Members of the Board did not request that any changes be made to the proposed cuts.

Before the Board voted on the proposed cuts, Meg Krulee, President of the District Educators Council, said, “We are concerned about the educational fidelity of the reading intervention model as it is moving away from supporting students directly in the area of literacy towards a model that will monitor and indirectly support multiple student needs.

“DEC disagrees with the proposed cuts of the four positions. We believe that this will decrease the amount of supports that students will receive and do not believe this is in the best interest of students.”

Some Other Areas That Will Likely Help FY’22

In addition to the $1.9 million in proposed cuts, Dr. Horton presented information on some cutbacks at the administrative level. He said, “There will be no administrative raises this year in the District. That was a hard decision to make but we also understand the importance of us all contributing to the challenges of our budget.”

He said administrative staff collectively will not apply for raises this year.

Dr. Horton added that there will also be a reduction in a few administrative positions. I’m not at liberty to speak to those until everything was really ironed out,” he said.

Ms. Zalewski confirmed that the cost savings due to not having salary increases for administrative staff would be about $160,000.

Dr. Horton said the cost savings of eliminating two administrative positions would be more than that, but he did not want to share that information yet.  He said that eliminating one administrative position was for sure, and a second was “looking very likely.”

In addition, the projections do not factor in the possible receipt of new revenues as a result of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.  

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...