BY CAROL ROEHM
District 118 school board members voted 7-0 Wednesday night to approve a package of cuts and other recommendations that will save the district $3 million in the next fiscal year.
The package includes a reduction of 24 positions through attrition, retirements and a reduction-in-force (RIF). School board members will have a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to announce and approve which teachers will be RIFed.
RIFs will be done differently this year than in the past, with staff members being cut based on a combination of seniority and performance. Any employee receiving an unsatisfactory or needs improvement on his or her evaluation would be RIFed first, then it would go by seniority.
The cuts include:
Eliminating the two School Administration Managers (SAMs), one each at North Ridge and South View middle schools.
Eliminating 14 elementary school teachers, eight of whom would be through attrition: 11 classroom teachers, one special education teacher, one music teacher and one physical education teacher.
Eliminating three middle school teachers, two of whom would be through attrition: one art teacher, one computer teacher and one math coach.
Eliminating five high school teachers, four of whom would be through attrition: one credit recovery teacher, one math teacher, one science teacher, one physical education teacher and one business teacher.
A Work Experience and Career Exploration Program teacher will not be cut as previously announced because grant funding is available for the position.
The total savings from eliminating 24 positions is $2.12 million. The total savings is higher than it normally would be for the elimination of 24 employees because of the large number of retirees that are leaving the district at the end of the school year.
“Half of that (cost savings) is retired staff that is at the top of the pay scale,” Superintendent Mark Denman told the board. “We want to preserve our programs for boys and girls. We don’t want to make catastrophic cuts.”
Class sizes will increase because of the teacher cuts, so board members approved adding four non-certified elementary school teaching assistants in the overcrowded classrooms at a total cost of $116,926.
Danville Education Association Robin Twidwell, however, took exception to the plan to eliminate full-time teaching positions yet hire back teaching assistants to help with overcrowded classrooms.
“I have serious concerns over the proposed cuts,” Twidwell told board members before they voted unanimously to make the cuts. “I hope the board considers the impact this will have on the class size and the students. I hope that you consider that the students would benefit from having teachers in the classrooms instead of teaching assistants.”
Twidwell also had some words for the four board members — Frank Young, Gina McGuire, Dan Brown and Steve Bragorgos — who voted in November to reduce the tax rate of this year’s levy, lowering the amount of taxes the district will collect by up to $700,000.
“We find it incredibly appalling that there were four members who lowered the tax levy,” she said. “You caused the levy to be lowered by $400,000 to $700,000.”
Young, however, defended his decision to lower the tax rate.
“We have a community that’s really hurting,” he said. “A lot of people have lost jobs or have had their hours reduced. We’re trying to manage a catastrophic loss of revenue from the state. This is not something that’s easy to do. We looked at what we can afford.
“There’s not anyone on this board that doesn’t have the best interest of the district at heart,” Young said. “We’ve positioned ourselves with what the community can afford. We have to manage this responsibly.”
Fellow board member Dr. Randal Ashton told Twidwell, “It is a very difficult decision and there’s been a lot of discussion on this issue. We wish we didn’t have any layoffs, but unfortunately decisions have to be made.”
Other cost savings totaling $956,310 include:
Making only necessary repairs for a cost savings of $200,000 in the buildings and grounds department.
Reducing capital expenditures in food service for a cost savings of $150,000.
Eliminating the commissary department at East Park Elementary School and cut its four staff members that make bulk food items, such as cookies and spaghetti sauce, for the whole district. Those food items will be made by each individual school for a cost savings of $56,310.
Decreasing capital and purchased technology services by stretching leases over a five-year period for a cost savings of $550,000.
The district started out this fiscal year’s budget on July 1, 2012, with a total fund balance of $20.2 million but projects an ending fund balance of $17.8 million by June 30. That would amount to deficit spending of $2.4 million.
The district’s biggest concern is the steady decline in state funding. The state owes the district $1.7 million.
Forty-nine percent of the district’s revenue comes from general state aid and reimbursement payments, another 35 percent comes from local property tax and the remaining 16 percent comes from the federal government.
“Every day we get worse news at the state level and at the local level,” said business director Heather McKiernan. “Revenues continue to drop.”
The district was supposed to get $29 million from the state this school year, but instead will receive about $26 million because the district is receiving only 89 percent of its total entitlement from the state.
The level of state funding will drop to 82 percent next school year, which will amount to a loss of $5.3 million and is $2.1 million less than what the district received this current school year.
The district has not received 100 percent of what it should receive in general state aid since 2008-2009, amounting to a total loss of $4.7 million in state funding. With the general state aid funded at the 82 percent level — which will be a loss of another $5.3 million — the cumulative loss to the district over the last five years will be $10 million.
Categorical payments from the state, such as transportation and special education, have been prorated as well since 2010-2011, and are paid late.
The state plans to pay only 19 percent of what it had been paying for transportation cost reimbursements, which amounts to a loss of $813,000 next school year.
In addition, local revenue has been on the decline, with the district’s equalized assessed valuation decreasing every year since 2009, amounting to a compounded loss of $3 million since the 2009-2010 school year. The district is expecting to lose an additional $713,000 to $981,000 in the 2013-2014 school year.
The sequestration also could impact the district with a 5.4 percent cut in federal funding in the 2013-2014 school year, which would amount to a loss of $311,449 spread over four grants.
Another unknown is whether the state will shift pension responsibility onto the local school districts to fund.
If the pension shift is done in increments, it would cost the district an additional $256,000 for every 1 percent that is shifted away from the state.
Also on Wednesday, school board members will:
Heard about pre-registration for the fall 2013 kindergarten class. Pre-registration will be conducted during parent-teacher conferences on March 21 and 22. Parents should register in the school their child should attend between 3-6 p.m. March 21 and 8-10:30 a.m. March 22.
Children are eligible for kindergarten if they turn 5 on or before Sept. 1, 2013. Parents are asked to bring a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, up-to-date physical and immunization records and proof of residency.
Heard about summer school information.
Summer school for elementary students will be held 8 a.m. to noon June 10-28 at three sites: Liberty, Meade Park and Southwest schools. Accelerated Reader opportunities will be available through a partnership with Danville Public Library.
Summer school for middle school students will be held 8 a.m. to noon June 10-28 at North Ridge Middle School.
For high school students, tuition summer school will be offered in the following subjects: algebra, geometry, government, English, health, driver’s education and physical education from June 10-July 19. There is a different schedule, hours and fees for driver’s education. No summer school will be held on July 4.
Two sessions will be held each day, 7:30-9:40 a.m. and 9:45-11:55 a.m. Tuition is $120 per course or $60 if eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Summer school for special education students will be held 8 a.m. to noon June 10-28 at Southwest Elementary and Danville High schools. Extended learning opportunities will be offered for identified students.
Alternative Credit Recovery will be offered 8 a.m. to noon June 10-July 18, with no school on July 4, at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy.
Modified the current school year calendar to delete emergency snow days and set the last day of school as May 31 for the traditional calendar schools and June 5 for Northeast Elementary Magnet School.
District 118 school board members will meet in special session to announce reductions-in-force at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Jackson Building, 516 N. Jackson St.