Emotions ran high at a District 158 meeting Thursday night as school board members OK'd for the first time in recent years lay-offs and other cuts.
In total, the board voted to lay-off 11 teachers and one nurse.
“Most of us on this board have kids in this district,” school board member Paul Troy said. “I feel pain tonight, not sadness, pain. I’m not proud of this decision. I know it’s asking our people to do more with less. I hear the comments, I understand the sentiments. This is not an easy decision, and I do not take it lightly.”
The school board cut the positions and voted also to forgo other investments, such as buying updated textbooks, improvements to Academic Drive and other building projects. The cuts, which will result in $1 million savings from next year's budget, is a pre-emptive move to keep the district financially sound.
The hope is that the state will make its payments to the district so some of the laid-off employees can be re-hired.
Burkey Asks For Pay Freeze
Adding to the list of cuts, Superintendent John Burkey asked the board to amend his contract agreement, which expires in 2013, to freeze his pay. Under the contract, Burkey was entitled to a yearly raise, and he requested the pay freeze in light of the harsh economic times, board members said.
“This is an unprecedented time,” Burkey said. “Our tax rate is going up for the first time in a long time. We have homeowners who are going to have a hard time paying their property taxes. Our glass is really half full in this district. Someday it’ll be completely full again.”
Burkey told the packed board room that hardest part about the layoffs is losing the quality teachers who helped District 158 succeed.
“We have hired many quality people,” Burkey said.
Among those laid off is one middle school and eight elementary school teachers, as well as teachers for art, music and physical education. The district will save $600,000 through these cuts.
However, a total of 16 positions will be eliminated when retirees and resignations are tallied in, said Chief Human Resources Officer Jessica Lombard.
Lombard said an additional four elementary school positions were on the chopping block, but administrators suggested holding off on $200,000 worth of textbook expenditures in order to keep the teachers.
Break Down of $1 Million In Salary Budget Reductions
Other salary budget reductions totaling the $1 million include:
- Eliminating two elementary keyboard teaching positions and switching those duties to the regular classroom teachers.
- Reducing one gifted coordinator job.
- Eliminating one nursing position. Those duties would be assumed by the Health Services Director.
- Reducing staff in the English Language Learners (ELL) program as the number of eligible students is declining.
- Reorganizing duties in the human resource department.
2012 budget Approved
Also during the meeting, the board approved the first draft of 2012 budget that included $6.5 million in reductions.
The operating revenues for district's 2012 fiscal year is estimated at $74.9 million, and operating expenditures are listed at $74.8 million, Chief Financial Officer Mark Altmayer said.
Altmayer also itemized the $6.5 million in his report to the board:
- $1 million in salary and budget reductions.
- $2 million savings through refinancing of debt certificates.
- Defer $1 million in planned improvements to Academic Drive.
- Reduce the technology equipment budget by $397,950.
- Forgo additional new hires based on 2012 enrollment increases by $659,250.
- Reduce health insurance costs by $500,000.
- Defer $198,758 in building projects
- $600,000 in reductions for energy, water and sewer, building and grounds supplies.