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Article updated: 4/11/2013 12:06 PM

Art, music programs safe in Grayslake Dist. 46

But Dist. 46 still needs to make up for a $2.2 million deficit

By Bob Susnjara

More than 250 parents, teachers and students attended Wednesday night's Grayslake Elementary District 46 board meeting with concerns about the possibility of additional budget cuts, including art and music programs.

But it turned out board members voted against eliminating art and music programs for kindergarten through eighth grade for a potential $240,000 in savings. They also agreed to postpone a vote on cutting after-school programs, including intramural sports, which District 46 Superintendent Ellen Correll said cost an estimated $100,000 a year.

"I would never support the cuts in arts and music," board member Michael Carbone said.

District 46 officials are trying to make a dent in a projected $2.2 million deficit for the 2013-14 academic year. Last month, elected officials agreed on about $1.3 million in cuts and said more would be needed to reach the goal.

Several students spoke during a lengthy public comment time and told the board about the positive difference that art, music and Science Olympiad programs have made in their lives. One resident who spoke asked that the District 46 board not be blamed for the budget woes.

"It's not really the board's fault," said Bruce Williams. "It's the (teachers) union."

Board member Keith Surroz told the crowd of 250 or so that deep cuts are needed. He noted elected officials in December voted against a maximum tax-levy increase and gave up a projected $750,000 in extra revenue to help property owners.

"It must feel good to just clap and not ask where the money is coming from," said Surroz, who triggered boos from some of the spectators.

An owner of a typical $200,000 home can expect to pay $316 more to the district this year with the reduced 1.9 percent tax levy hike, Chief School Business Official Anna Kasprzyk said. Some speakers at Wednesday's meeting said they would have been willing to pay even more in taxes to keep programs in tact.

Last month, about 15 full-time classroom instructors were eliminated for an estimated $750,000 in savings. Roughly another $200,000 is expected to be saved with the dismissal of four full-time special-education teachers.

Under the plan, average class sizes could rise with fewer instructors while still remaining within limits established by the district. Average class sizes would be 25 students in kindergarten through second grade and up to 30 pupils in grades 3 through 8.

Teacher cuts will be decided through evaluation ratings and districtwide seniority, officials said.

Elected officials have rejected a recommendation to eliminate two or more physical education instructors through trimming gym classes by 10 minutes. The move to cut daily gym from 40 minutes to 30 minutes could have saved $125,000 under the proposal.

Other measures to fill the budget gap already approved by the board include reducing the superintendent's budget by $5,000, cutting the elected officials' expenditures by $19,500, and slicing technology spending by $50,000.

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