School District Eyes Budget Cuts to Bridge $500K Deficit
Banking on changes its health care plan, and cuts to secretarial and custodial services, the Shorewood School District outlined its financial map to bringing the 2013-2014 budget into the black.
Facing a $520,000 budget gap to bridge for next year, Shorewood school officials outlined cuts Tuesday night that they say are as far as possible from the classroom.
"I think we worked as hard as we can with the ideas we have right now to keep any reductions away from the classroom and away from programs," Superintendent Martin Lexmond said.
"Often that is very difficult for school districts, when the revenue does not provide nearly what we need to deliver what the community wants."
School administrators proposed a long list of cuts and additions in an effort to bring the 2013-14 budget into the black. The School Board is expected to vote on a preliminary budget on Tuesday.
The district hopes to shave about $759,000 from next year's budget by the following steps:
- Savings from employee retirements and turnover;
- Reduced health care costs;
- Requiring all employees contribute 12.6 percent to their premiums and increasing deductibles;
- Cutting and restructuring secretarial and custodial services; and
- Capping teacher base salary increases at 2 percent.
Shorewood, like many other districts in the state, is facing financial challenges as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, which included a zero-dollar increase in per-pupil spending. Business Manager Mark Boehlke said the district is expecting a 1.59 percent boost in the district's revenue limit. Over the past decade, the district has averaged a 0.3 percent increase.
With the way the district's teacher pay scale works, Lake Bluff teacher Sachin Pandya said he had serious concerns about the salary increases, because educators at the top of the pay scale would ultimately not receive a raise.
"It's a pretty significant concern to our ability to bring in the best teachers and reward these teachers that are doing pretty incredible work," Pandya said.
Referencing another resident's comment that budgets are a reflection of a community’s values, resident Ben Kemp said he took issue with the cuts and restructuring of secretarial and custodial groups.
"It seems like our secretarial and custodial staff are taking huge hits," he said. "And, as a value, I don't want to live in a community that puts it on those people's backs."
Officials are also proposing eliminating student fees for band, chorus and orchestra, but increasing the rental fee for students using district instruments, and eliminating a sixth-grade section at Atwater due to enrollment; those measures are expected to cut nearly $75,500. The elimination of an equipment operator position, which is currently vacant, would save $76,000.
The reductions make way for additions of $286,517 in expenses, including:
- Hiring a full-time ELL (English language learner) teacher at Lake Bluff Elementary at a cost of $66,337; and
- Hiring a part-time cognitive disability teacher, an early childhood teacher and a learning disability teacher Lake Bluff, at a combined cost of $115,000.
The district also is planning to spend $158,000 on contracted support and teaching staff, and software to help meet new state and federal mandates like Response to Intervention, a program designed to standardize quality instruction, balanced assessments and collaboration.
The district is also anticipating receiving an additional $55,000 in donations from the SEED Foundation and after its hires a development/marketing director. Last year, SEED donated $70,000 for the school budget.
School Board President Rob Reinhoffer said he would like to see first grade Spanish added into next year's budget.
District officials started the budget process earlier this year, trying to wrap up by spring. This would allow principals to fill open positions for next school year earlier, when many of the most talented teachers are looking for new employment opportunities, officials said. Officials say long-term solutions to budget woes are big boost in donations, and increased resident enrollment.
The district’s budget is dependent upon the state’s biennial budget, which will not be approved until this summer. A final school budget won't be approved until late October.