Staff reductions and a possible education fund rate referendum were part of the final cost-cutting models Summit Hill School District 161 Superintendent Barb Rains unveiled Wednesday as proposals to make up for an expected $2.5 million deficit in the 2012-13 budget.
The models before the board, which serve as blueprints for the direction the district will take in dealing with the budget deficit, break down three ways: streamlining district operations, closing at least one school or by putting an ed rate referendum on the November ballot. The following gives the highlights of the plans:
Details: The biggest effect of this proposal would be a 14 percent staf reduction throughout the district, which would amount to a loss of 35 teachers and a savings of $570,000.
Other savings would be drawn from restructuring bus routes ($235,400), cuts in consumables ($92,250), dropping half-day kindergarten ($450,000) and reorganizing administrative positions ($200,000).
This plan also would raise maximum class sizes by three across all the schools in the district, creating a savings of $300,000 by eliminating five sections.
Overall projected savings: $1.66 million
Details: Versions of this idea have been under discussion since the board first discussed the 2012-13 budget deficit. The biggest difference in the model brought up Wednesday was the prospect of closing two schools. Closing one of the district's grades 1-4 schools would bring a staff reduction of 5 percent; closing two would take it to 9 percent.
It wasn't discussed Wednesday which schools would be closed, but Frankfort Square, Arbury Hills and Mary Drew schools have been mentioned as being on the chopping block at past meetings.
Overall projected savings: $500,000 for one school; $1.18 million for two schools.
Details: Under this plan, the district would continue its regular operations, although it would continually look for places to make cuts to increase efficiency. However, this would mean an increase in property taxes for district homeowners if voters passed it.
Overall projected savings: Undetermined. Rains said calculations would be made to determine the increase to taxpayers' bills if the board went in this direction.
Although the numbers in these belt-tightening plans don't cover the entire deficit, Rains said the intent is to look at this as a long-term strategy over three years. These cuts for 2012 would be the first step.
In 2013, the district will look at selling land behind Dr. Julian Rogus School, as well as renegotiating the teachers' union contract, which runs out at the end of the 2012-13. A contract-mandated salary increase next school year is a contributing factor to the deficit.
In 2014, the district will try to find savings in refinancing 2005 construction bonds that will be callable.
There will be a final community meeting to discuss these plans at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the district offices. After that, the board will discuss the proposals at a public workshop Feb. 4, where they will decide which direction to take. The official vote on that will be at the board's Feb. 8 meeting.
In an interview after the meeting, Rains emphasized that these plans are more maps as opposed to specific orders for the board to use to balance the budget. Implementation of these proposals won't come in one big action so much as guide decisions down the line, like when the board approves the next school year's budget in September, she added.
Using Cover It Live on Patch, you can read the play-by-play Wednesday's meeting by clicking on the box above.
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