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Some Residents Say School Board's $1.3 Million Budget Cuts Still Fall Short

The $1.13 million officials trimmed from next year's $88 million spending plan should rise to $4.5 million, homeowners assert at board meeting.

The Board of Education Monday cut $1.13 million from School District 304’s 2011-12 school year budget. But residents at the board meeting said that’s not enough.

“We need to take action now so next year’s property taxes only go up by single digits,” said resident Rich Hayhurst.

Last month, board members postponed approving the tentative budget so they could meet with administrators and find more cuts to make. The $1.13 million they trimmed Monday includes $65,000 in unpaid wages resulting from a salary freeze for support staff; $103,000 in worker compensation insurance payment cuts due to a policy discount; $250,000 for the portion of the Burgess Field replacement project that has been put off until next year; and about $500,000 in cuts to planned maintenance and capital improvement projects, said Assistant Superintendent Donna Oberg.

“We’re going to do only the repairs that are absolutely necessary and hope nothing actually breaks down,” she said. The complete list of budget cuts will be uploaded to the district’s website, www.geneva304.org, Tuesday morning, she added.

Board members agreed that the latest round of budget cuts wouldn’t be the last before they approve the final draft in December.

“For $1 million-plus, it was well worth the time we spent looking at it now,” said board member Michael McCormick. “I look forward to hearing the public’s comments and continuing to cut. One million is good, but I hope we can do better.”

Resident Don Dears suggested that the district cut support staff costs by 10 percent to save $3 million; outsource busing to save $500,000; cut the building operations and maintenance budget by $500,000; and save another $500,000 by offering early retirement to teachers at the top of the pay scale.

“The object is to cut as much as possible without touching the teachers,” he said. “Our expenditures are 5 percent lower per pupil than the state average for instruction, but 19 percent higher in total cost. The conclusion has to be that overhead is too high.”

Heidi Roed said district officials aren’t being creative enough in seeking out ways to save money. She cited Internet articles on other U.S. school districts that have saved thousands of dollars by enlisting students to reduce electricity waste or by using sheep to crop school lawns.

“There are so many great ideas you can just Google that I don’t understand why we aren’t coming up with creative ideas,” she said.

Board members also discussed holding a “School Finance 101” seminar to clear up miscommunications between the district and the public over the budget process. “At the Swedish Days parade, I thought I was going to get pitchforked because someone thought we were only going to cut $65,000,” McCormick commented.

“I think we should hold a finance workshop so we all can understand the challenges we’re facing,” added board member Kelly Nowak.

Lou B. September 06, 2011 at 06:25 AM
Geneva, the school board and it's members could care less about you, and your tax bill. They care about being part of the 'good guy club' that roams the halls. No one speaks out at board meeting, because they are afraid to be ostracized by the 'club.' Friendships keep people quiet, and the taxpayers get it in the end. Education is not expensive, but union abuse, weak-kneed school board members, and an uninformed electorate are the reasons your taxes will go up another 8% this year. The fun part will come in when the deferred liability bonds for the 1/2 empty schools come due, starting in the next few years. Your taxes are going to soar, you heard it here. You can say a big thank you to the school board again this year when they hand out another 150,000 to people just before retirement... didn't know about that? It's all part of being in 'the club.' The Geneva board hands a fat pay raise to all teachers and administration just before retirement so that those dear little darlings in their classes can be saddled with a lifetime of boosted retirement fund liability.
Lou B. September 06, 2011 at 07:26 AM
"For $1 million-plus, it was well worth the time we spent looking at it now,” said board member Michael McCormick. Dear Board Member McCormick... Deferring maintenance is not a spending cut. Unless you can defer it forever! Please stop telling people you meet that you "cut" 1 million. Your phony 'cut' will have ZERO effect on tax bills, since your board is still chanting their beloved "tax to the max" mantra. Nice try, no cigar. Higher taxes for Geneva residents... more smoke and mirrors from school board members.

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