District 51 works to pare budget

School District 51 officials have recommend cutting reimbursement for staff travel, among other reductions amounting to $2.3 million, as they work to reduce spending to meet state requirements.

“We’re really minimally impacting classrooms,” said Melissa Callahan deVita, executive director for support services for District 51. “We tried to be creative so we didn’t shortchange students.”

The District 51 board has until the end of June to complete the budget.

As the Legislature has worked its way through the state budget, District 51 officials juggled scenarios about how much they might have to cut from their estimated $158 million spending plan. They had begun the process of cutting as much as $5 million from the budget.

As it stands now, their budget is based in part on the prospect of receiving $4 million from state stabilization funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The district, however, is required by the state to set aside $2.7 million as a fiscal emergency reserve. Officials won’t know until early next year whether they can retain the money, deVita said.

The fund amounts to $132 per student.

Under the budget plan, the district will receive about $94 million from the state, which includes the $4 million in federal stabilization money, and $46 million from local sources. A variety of other sources account for the remaining revenue.

Other cuts the district will recommend to the board include reducing the use of substitutes for classified employees such as secretaries, custodians and maintenance workers.

The district also will extend the use of Title 1 money for schools with high numbers of students on free and reduced-priced lunches.

As the legislative session ended, Callahan deVita said, “We ended up in an OK place.”


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