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updated: 2/11/2011 8:02 AM

Palatine District 15 steering clear of teacher layoffs

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Barring any big surprises in the next couple months, it doesn't appear Palatine Township Elementary District 15 will turn to teacher layoffs to deal with its deficit spending.

At Wednesday's board meeting Assistant Superintendent Mike Adamczyk instead listed more modest moves resulting in $415,650 to $533,650 in savings -- just a fraction of the $5.4 million budget hole projected next school year.

The presentation outlined cuts including $76,000 from the reduction of two special education resource teachers due to attrition and $50,000 through the purchase of year-old buses.

District 15 also would make non-classroom personnel reductions up to $205,000 from non-classroom positions officials are declining to identify just yet, as well as save $100,000 by implementing an energy conservation program focused on turning off lights and choosing more efficient heating and cooling settings.

"I just feel this is just kind of silly," board member Tim Millar said. "This is just not even addressing the issue."

Right now, Adamczyk is projecting District 15 will spend down its fund balance from $55.5 million now to $22.2 million in 2015-16.

When questioned by member Peggy Babcock what solution Millar would propose, he responded that he wants to reopen the teachers union contract for renegotiation since salaries and benefits account for such a large chunk of the district's budget.

He pointed out that teachers received base raises above the Consumer Price Index, causing growing costs to outpace revenue growth.

However, Babcock said doing so would prove a very involved process and indicated the board attorney had cautioned against taking that action in a past discussion.

She said that time would better be spent on negotiating the next teachers contract, which is up in about 18 months.

Millar said that if reopening the contract isn't an option, the board should consider "just being honest and upfront about what potential cuts there would be or a tax increase."

Superintendent Scott Thompson said his idea is to complete the Navigate15 community engagement process in order to learn people's priorities. Then, he'd like the board to this summer take part in a retreat focused on more aggressive long-term financial planning based on the residents' recommendations.

No direction or action was taken, and the board likely will discuss next year's budget and five-year projections again at March's meeting.