Barrington Unit District 220 board members this week began their annual winter adjustments to the budget, with an unusual twist: the list of possible additions is significantly larger than the potential cuts.
And that list of additions doesn't even include the continuation of the Chinese language immersion program that's facing elimination after its loss of federal funding.
Because a recent review of the budget's financial assumptions turned out to be more positive than expected, school board members gave Superintendent Tom Leonard different criteria in preparing his list of potential cuts.
Rather than aiming for a specific monetary figure to cut in years past, the board told Leonard to focus on what savings are possible because of gradually declining enrollment.
The list presented Tuesday including eliminating 6.4 full-time positions, lower electricity costs, consolidated bus routes and other efficiencies estimated to save $546,140.
The board also tentatively approved a 3 percent increase in student fees that would bring in an additional $51,600 in revenue.
Besides seeking potential savings, the board also asked Leonard to find out from his staff what personnel and program additions they were recommending for next year. The cost of that list totaled $998,663.
On their first review of the list Tuesday, straw polls of board members ended with tentative approvals of only $167,722 of what was being sought.
Leonard said that while the board's duty is to approve only what it can afford, administrators didn't put any recommendation on the list lightly.
"We didn't put anything on this list that we didn't feel had need," he said.
Board Member Nicholas Sauer expressed concern about the possibility of adding more to the budget than cutting in such uncertain economic times.
Board President Brian Battle explained to audience members some of the criteria used in examining the budget. While protection of classroom programs is among the highest priorities, the district also adheres to a policy of strict financial discipline, he explained.
"We're not going to deficit spend," Battle said. "We haven't deficit spent in 15 years."