District 73 begins tackling deficit with $1.52 million in suggested cuts
Suggested budget cuts of about $1.52 million over the next two years in Hawthorn District 73 wouldn't affect teachers or programs but staffing in other areas would be trimmed.
Clerks at school offices and teacher aides would be trimmed under the possible cuts which have been under study for months by district administrators. The suggestions were presented this past week to the school board for an initial look, but no action was taken.
Other savings being suggested include an across-the-board reduction in supplies, including paper, and trimming and eventually outsourcing all janitorial services.
"We're maintaining the programs -- the arts, the music, the athletics, the extracurriculars -- all the stuff we really value," said board member Jayson Tran, who has served since 2010 but it not seeking re-election. "I think that's a really good start -- cutting $1.5 million without impacting programs or teachers."
The comments were made after a presentation of potential budget reductions by Joe Porto, co-interim school superintendent, and Abe Singh, director of finance and business operations.
The district began this year with a $1.5 million deficit. Voters last November approved borrowing $48.7 million for new and renovated school buildings, but rejected a tax increase for money to operate and maintain them.
That means without cuts, the deficit could increase to up to $3 million over the next few years, according to Porto. The school board directed administrators to scour the budget and suggest ways to deal with the shortfall. Porto said cuts of $316,245 were made for the current school year.
The suggested cuts will provide breathing room, but chopping expenses is expected to become an annual exercise as a new kindergarten building and other renovations come online without a steady or substantial source of revenue forthcoming.
"This isn't a one-and-done kind of thing," Porto said.
Nearly $1.1 million in cuts is suggested for the 2019-20 school year beginning July 1. Much of the savings would come by cutting 14 teacher assistant positions and eight school clerks.
Each of the 86 aide spots will be assessed, with priority given to those who work with special education students, Porto said. The hope is the number of teacher assistants can be reduced by attrition.
"We think we can do this reduction without anybody losing their positions," he said.
Having three clerks per school is "more than adequate," leaving eight to be cut, according to Porto. "Those decisions will be made according to seniority. We'll work very closely with the (union) to make sure it is done right and done compassionately," he said.
In 2020-21, another $452,210 in suggested cuts would come mostly by subcontracting all janitorial services. Further reductions in supplies and materials also are planned.
New Superintendent Peter Hannigan, who will start July 1, will continue searching for savings that would have the least impact on teaching and learning, Porto added.
"This needs to be thought of as an every-year function," he said. The board at some point may have to decide whether deeper cuts or another referendum requesting a tax increase will be needed.
"But that's way down the line and hopefully that's something you don't even have to get to if this process can take place each year," he added.