Elk Grove Township District 59 officials want to cut $10 million in spending over the next two years, and everything from operating costs to jobs is on the table.
But renegotiating a contract with First Student Inc., its school bus provider, is the first way the district is looking to save money. That could mean a change in time students start their day.
Last week, the school board decided to explore three options: Keep the schedule unchanged, stagger elementary school start times, or loop routes with Northwest Suburban High School District 214.
Keeping the same schedule wouldn't save any money, while staggering elementary school start times could cut $600,000 annually and running routes with District 214 could save $1.5 million each year, officials said.
Under the plan to stagger elementary school start times, some elementary schools would start at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m. while others would run from 8:55 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The district hasn't determined which elementary schools would fall into each category. The current elementary school day runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.
In the same plan, the two middle schools would begin at 7:25 a.m. and dismiss at 2:30 p.m. The current school day for middle school students is 7:45 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. Ridge Early Learning Center would be in session from 8:15 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. instead of the current schedule of 7:50 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.
Under the plan to loop schedules with District 214, the elementary schools would be in session from 9 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. The middle school day would be from 7:30 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. Ridge Early Learning Center would be in session from 7:45 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.
In January, the school board plans to gather feedback from parents and staff members about potentially changing start and dismissal times.
These efforts to cut spending come within the context that the district will soon be grappling with some serious financial decisions. A self-imposed school board policy requires to district to keep at least 60 percent of annual operating costs in reserve.
Forecasts show the currently healthy reserve fund will be spent down to 57 percent next budget year largely because of added employees to bolster early education programs, a new $16 million administrative building in Elk Grove Village, and remodeling at three schools. Plus, bus transportation costs went up 35 percent. Because of this, the district is looking at changes to avoid deficit spending by 2020.
The district wants to issue taxpayer-funded bonds for the construction project -- which would provide some breathing room in the budget -- but whether the district gets that cash infusion will depend on the March election. In September, residents petitioned to force a referendum on the proposal to issue up to $20 million in bonds.
School board members had preliminarily agreed to issue $15 million in bonds, though the amount could have been up to $20 million. A $15 million bond issue would cost the average resident with a $250,000 home about $15 more in property taxes annually until 2024.