School district searches for millions in cuts

The School District 51 board, anticipating that the economic slowdown will result in less money next year, has begun wrestling with ideas to cut millions from its budget.

Budget estimates began with the premise that the district would receive an additional $5.8 million more than its current $158 million for the 2008-09 school year.

As school-funding measures have progressed through the Legislature, the forecast grew less rosy.

The first revised estimated was that the district would likely see only an additional $2.2 million. Under the most recent estimates, it could see revenue tumble by more than $300,000, Melissa Callahan deVita, executive director of support services, told the board Tuesday.

“Right now, we’re almost pitting higher education versus K-12 and that’s not a place we want to be,” Callahan deVita said.

A plan to take $500 million from an insurance company and use it to shore up cuts in higher education is moving through the Legislature.

Although the state stands to receive $760 million in federal funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, strings attached to the money make it an unlikely source of replacement funds, Superintendent Tim Mills told the board.

Among possible cuts raised by the board are moving to a four-day week to take a large piece from the district’s $5.6 million transportation budget; saving $175,000 by eliminating buses for students who live within two miles of school instead of the current one-mile limit; and cutting travel expenses and mileage reimbursement.

District officials are to complete a budget proposal by the end of May and the board must adopt a plan by the end of June.


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