Citizen groups to present budget findings
The District 51 School Board will hear ideas from two community groups Tuesday about trimming next year’s budget.
The board has to cut between $2 million and $4 million from the district’s 2012–13 budget to compensate for an anticipated decline in enrollment, required increases in district contributions to employee retirement accounts, and a gap in project funding. Members of the Budget Oversight Committee and Save Our Students will present suggestions for cuts at a 6 p.m. board meeting Tuesday at the Basil T. Knight Center.
The oversight committee consists of 19 community members selected by the School Board to offer an outside viewpoint on budget cuts. Committee Chairman Joe Skinner said the committee will present three lists of potential budget reductions, labeled “strongly preferred,” “preferred” and “marginal.” “Strongly preferred” suggestions earned at least 70 percent support when committee members voted on them; “preferred” suggestions had 50 to 69 percent support; and the “marginal” options got support from a majority of people who voted on them, but some people abstained from the vote.
The “strongly preferred” list, although subject to change before Tuesday’s meeting, includes cuts to administration and increasing class sizes by one student. Slightly less popular items include dipping into reserve funds or charging fees for busing.
The citizen-created group Save Our Students, which consists mostly of parents and has a central, eight-person board, independently researched the district’s budget, spoke with staff, and came up with its own list of budget reductions.
Save Our Students Board member Rob Pierce said the group decided the district can go one of two ways.
It can make incremental cuts that would impact employees across the district. Or, it can place more of the budget burden on the community by charging fees for busing, charging more for sports and activities, increasing busing boundaries at some middle and high schools, and making some cuts to administration.
Pierce said the second option may be hard on parents, but he believes the first option would mean busier district employees, which could impact student learning.
He added the group hopes the School Board will embrace their opinion as much as the oversight committee’s view.
“For people in our community that are skeptical of what the administration says and what the School Board says, we hope to offer an independent voice and independently reached conclusions that I hope will be credible to those people,” Pierce said.
Both groups said they plan to continue to meet to discuss the 2013–14 budget and long-term funding solutions.