Citizens add advice to school budget effort

Most of the time, for the average citizen, the idea of taking part in school district budget discussions has all the appeal of having a root canal without novocaine.

But tough times often call for drastic action. And that seems to be the impetus behind the independent local group, Save Our Schools, which is exploring ways to cut millions more from the School District 51 budget. The group plans to make recommendations to the school board on where it believes cuts can be made most effectively, with the least impact to education.

We commend the parents and others who have joined Save Our Schools and are willing to slog through the minutiae of school finances while seeking to advise the district in a positive and knowledgeable manner.

The group was formed in early November, after voters in District 51 shot down a ballot measure that would have allowed the district to increase its property tax mill levy to raise an estimated $12 million more each year.

Without that money, and because more cuts in state funding are anticipated, the district expects it will have to cut an additional $3 million to $10 million from next year’s school budget.

Members of Save Our Schools worry that the latest round of budget cuts, coming in the wake of three years’ worth of District 51 cuts totaling more than $28 million, could be too much for the local education system if they aren’t made judiciously.

“I want my kid to be able to go to public school, but I want it to be a quality education,” said Amy Agapito, a member of the Save Our Schools board.

It is an understandable sentiment, shared by many parents in this community, no doubt. But rather than simply hope for the best outcome, the parents and other community members involved in Save Our Schools are digging into the budget details so they can offer thoughtful advice to the school board in February, when it considers the next round of budget cuts.


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It seems the citizens have made their statement when they voted 65% to 35% to deny the district funding for current programs.  Lest we not forget the District has been great stewards of the taxpayers money over the last 10 years all while absorbing and making millions of dollars in cuts! It is time for the District personnel who have done the research and disected the budget to make the tough decisions not leave it up to a committee who may focus on trying to save personal agenda programs.

Developing yet another committee to do the District’s work sends the wrong message.  This is akin to sending school board members or parents to the classroom and telling teachers how or what to teach and by what method.

The District initially failed by not publishing the list of programs and cuts before the election and by not following itwhen the bond issue failed!  Now a committee of parent’s will peruse the same budgetary information that professionals have been disecting for years only to find out the experts are pretty efficient in finding cuts that effect kids minimally.

Good luck to the committee, but keep in mind your peers are part of the 65% who voted down the bond issue that would likely have saved some programs. In your decision making it is imperative that this community share in feeling the pain of the cuts in the budgetary process!

District personnel should be making the cuts and the community should share in how those cuts will effect the community as a whole.
There are many options available and they are tough options that will effect this entire community if they are made, however if made, the voting taxpayer in this community might well pass the next bond by the margin it voted it down in the last election!

The shame in this is that a committee is making suggestions to the professionals who should be making the decision!  The first statement should have been: “If this bond does not pass, this, this, and this will be cut or will happen!”

Hopefully the committee will stand tall and let the community know how they will share in the cuts!

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