The Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board soon will get a look at what a "worst-case scenario" budget for the next school year will look like.
It's not going to be pretty, with officials Wednesday discussing teacher layoffs, increased class size and programming cuts as probabilities should the district choose to completely erase a nearly $10 million projected deficit next year instead of turning to savings to cushion the blow.
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Superintendent Scott Thompson suggested that administrators draft both a worst-case and best-case budget should union contract negotiations go favorably. Board members agreed they wanted to see the harsh reality of what $10 million in cuts would look like.
"Anything less than that is not going to get our books in balance," member Manjula Sriram said.
Board President Tim Millar said he believes the actual deficit will end up being a few million dollars less given District 15 traditionally budgets conservatively on the revenue side and liberally on expenses.
Board members couldn't all agree how the district's efforts to chip away at the deficit should affect its tax levy.
Millar proposed limiting the tax levy increase to 1.5 percent, or the rate of inflation, and forgoing the revenue captured from any new growth in the district so that the tax burden on property owners would be lessened, however minimal the amount. Officials estimated District 15 would lose about $500,000 based on Assistant Superintendent Mike Adamczyk's estimate of the district's total equalized assessed value increasing by $21 million.
"It's only because we've been excessive over the years that we've gotten into this situation," Millar said, adding that other taxing bodies including the Palatine Park District and village of Palatine are seeking slightly less money next year.
But other members including Scott Herr, Peggy Babcock and Rich Bokor said $500,000 could mean saving several teachers' jobs and agreed with the administration's recommendation to increase the tax levy by 3 percent to about $110.5 million.
"Right now we've got an almost insurmountable problem," Herr said. "In the short run we need to first get our house in order."
The board will approve the tax levy after a public hearing at the Dec. 14 meeting.