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.