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updated: 2/25/2011 9:32 AM

District 89 battling $1 million deficit

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Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 is facing a $1 million deficit in the next year, likely to be made up with a combination of personnel and programming cuts, fee increases, and use of reserves.

District expenses have been escalating by 4 percent to 6 percent annually, with increased costs of employment, insurance, utilities and instructional materials -- all things affected by inflation, Superintendent John Perdue said.

That's on top of $285,000 in state funding cuts -- more than half of which was for student transportation, a mandated program.

"All of these cuts the state delivers to you have to be made up from somewhere. It digs into your fund balance," Perdue said. "Had that not occurred, we'd probably be close to balancing the budget."

But the amount of revenue also hasn't been keeping up with expenses, Perdue said. The district is now in its second year of deficit spending.

Last month, the school board directed administrators to come up with between $1 million and $2 million in proposed cuts and classify them in three levels, from the least to most impact on classroom instruction. But board members are only reviewing reductions with the smallest effect, Perdue said.

Such proposed cuts would amount to about $688,000 and include eliminating some secretarial positions, reducing nursing services, lowering pay for substitute teachers, and cutting staff professional development services. MAP testing also could be cut for kindergarten and first grade at the district's four elementary schools and for science at Glen Crest Middle School.

"No one's comfortable with any of (the cuts)," Perdue said. "It's not as if these are unnecessary services or services that are luxuries. These are services we have used and needed and found value in. But it doesn't affect the classroom instructional setting."

The cuts would not include implementation of a proposed early release schedule, which Perdue said needs more research. Under the plan, students would be dismissed an hour early one day each week to allow staff members the time to discuss curriculum and assessment. Currently, substitute teachers are brought in when those meetings occur.

The district is considering increasing current fees, and implementing new ones, which could bring in $32,750. A technology fee would be applied across the district, along with a student ID fee at Glen Crest. Fees for milk, YMCA rental, and participation in clubs, activities and sports would increase.

The district also will have to spend about $100,000 to add a first-grade section at Briar Glen Elementary and a second -grade section at Park View.

After reductions and taking new revenue and spending into account, the net is about $594,000. That means the district could use about $250,000 to $500,000 from reserves to make up the difference, Perdue said.

But he also said that might only be a short-term solution to the district's financial woes. Officials have had preliminary discussions about asking voters for a tax rate increase. The last such referendum on an increase was in 1986.

"We have heard from the community that long term they want this problem fixed," Perdue said. "To continually go through this -- we can't cut enough to really balance the budget long term and make that long arching curving line flat by 2015."

The public will be able to comment on the proposed cuts during a special board meeting at 7 p.m. March 9 at Glen Crest. The board is expected to consider the proposed cuts at its March 21 meeting.