D51 advised to charge for busing, cut admin

Cuts to administration, new busing fees and higher fees for sports and activities were among the budget-trimming suggestions two community groups presented to the District 51 School Board Tuesday night.

The District 51-chartered Budget Oversight Committee and the citizen-formed Save Our Students each studied the district’s budget over the last few months, searching for cuts or new sources of revenue to plug a $5 million to $8 million hole in the district’s 2012-13 budget. News late last month that the state legislature is unlikely to reduce local school funding this fall shrank that hole to an anticipated $2 million to $4 million. Budget Oversight Committee Chair Joe Skinner told the board his group looked at up to $12.5 million in cuts anyway in order to give the board numerous options to peruse.

Up to $4.57 million worth of suggestions got at least 70 percent support from the 18-member committee, which made them the group’s “strongly preferred” options. That amount includes $3,354,084 in reductions at school buildings, $290,000 to $580,000 in cuts that would be made by trimming 10 to 20 percent of the budget for central administration, $485,000 from increasing athletic fees by $25 and charging $10 a month per child for busing, and $156,000 from reducing support programming.

Further cuts to administration and schools, implementation of a four-day work week, and borrowing from reserve funds got support from at least half of committee members. Skinner said the first set of cuts and increases, although tough to fathom, were the most popular because they would impact students the least.

Save Our Schools board member Rob Pierce said his group also wanted to keep the burden of budget cuts off students and came to similar conclusions about fees, although his committee suggests charging $22 per child for busing and $11 to bus each additional child in a family. He also told the board Save Our Students suggests increasing athletic fees by enough money to have those activities pay for themselves.

Pierce said the group doesn’t want sports to go away, just pay for themselves. He said sports in the district, which waive fees for low-income students, are currently $1 million short of self-sufficiency.

“If the district does not have the money to adequately fund instruction…we should not be subsidizing sports,” he said.

Save Our Students also recommends extending walking distance perimeters from two miles to three at high schools and middle schools where the perimeter could be extended without endangering pedestrians. The group suggests administrative cuts as well.

Pierce said his group came up with $2 million to $3 million in cuts for 2012-13 but would recommend the district reconsider its decision not to pursue a four-day week and entertain that idea for 2013-14. The move could save $1.5 million to $2 million.


COMMENTS

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Great deduction.  Cuts that effect students the least?  How about the least amount of students?  Lets go after an athletic budget that spends less than 1% of the entire budget to run….Thtat will cut the deficit in a hurry.  Over half of committee members support the 4 day week and closing schools but those are taken off the table?

Why?  Because it would have an entire community share the burden of voting down a bond issue for ALL kids?  Makes perfect sense….NOT!

If you are going to cut athletics then make it worthwhile…Drop ALL non-revenue sports and make them club activities paid for by parents whose kids enjoy those activities only…That would effect a few students.

For every bus rider that is penalized because they don’t live walking distance to school charge the same amount for the same period of time for every high school kid who drives a vehicle to school and parks it!  At least we can get some revenue from them and that would effect a few more kids!  What Mr. Pierce fails to grasp is that many kids who are involved in co-curricular activities learn far more life skills than their counterparts who sit in a math class they may never use later in life.

But…..let’s keep those test scores as our binding evaluations for what kids learn and what teachers teach.

$2 -$3 million in cuts with the 4 day week and it is taken off the table….brilliant.

What are the $3.3 million cuts at the building levels?  I would suggest we have all of these committee members continue to volunteer and schedule other volunteers to help with the aides who will be lost, custodial staff, counselors, administrators, and teachers who go far beyond what their contractual duties are to help kids.

Make sure they are scheduled for 7 am when a kid shows up stoned, their is 4” of snow on the sidewalks, the buses are late, a 14 year old is in crisis but no counselor is available, an administrator is wasting time explaining to a parent why school starts and ends when it does, and a thousand other scenarios for seemingly minor incidents occur but there won’t be many around to take care of the issues!

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