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posted: 2/18/2010 12:01 AM

Queen Bee District 16 preparing for staff cuts

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Queen Bee Elementary District 16 officials say they will have to lay off as many as 25 percent of their teachers to help make up a budget deficit of between $800,000 and $2 million.

Roughly 32 nontenured teachers will not have their contracts renewed for next year, Superintendent Vickie Tabbert said Wednesday. Whether they will be asked back in the future is hard to tell.

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"It's very hard, very difficult to say to staff that we have to plan for the worst, hope for the best, but even the best comes with significant cuts," she said.

Queen Bee's $18 million budget was cut about $750,000 last year and the district had to borrow money just to make payroll. Earlier this month, it took out $5.5 million in tax-anticipation warrants, essentially using future revenue to pay for current expenditures. The state owes the district a little bit more than $1 million, Tabbert said.

The district serves about 2,100 students in Glendale Heights and small parts of Glen Ellyn and Carol Stream.

By state law, school districts must give at least 90 days notice to teachers who will be let go. That means staffing levels for next year must be determined by March.

Tabbert said the timetable causes headaches when coupled with a state that has yet to tell officials when - or if - to expect payment. She said not renewing the teachers gives the district flexibility when dealing with the state.

"The reality is they don't have the money," Tabbert said. "If you don't have the money in the checkbook, you can't pay the bill."

Officials insist they have kept as many programs as possible and turned to reduced staffing levels as a last resort.

Tabbert has worked for the district in different capacities for 17 years and personally knows some of those affected. But she said she has had to step back and look at it from a business perspective.

"I'm the steward of the taxpayers' money," she said. "The only way of getting through this is to take the faces away and it's hard. It's going to be very difficult to keep the morale up in the spring."

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