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D65 pares staff in budget move

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In anticipation of a budget deficit in the next fiscal year, the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 has eliminated 29 full-time-equivalent staff positions, effective July 1, in a major restructuring  of several departments.

Among the positions eliminated were 10.5 central office positions; 6.75 reading specialists; 6 special education teacher assistant positions; and 5.8 building-level staff, including one assistant principal, two secretaries, and two curriculum specialists.

 All affected staff members were notified last week, according to a news release distributed Thursday.

The restructuring, approved by the School Board at its March 23 meeting, is expected to result in a savings of about $1.2 million, the release said.

In addition to the personnel reductions, several positions with the district have been combined and additional responsibilities will be redistributed across departments, according to the release.

Superintendent Paul Goren said that “even with the reductions, we remain committed to providing quality service to our students, families, and community.”

Goren added that the district is faced with a “grim financial picture” that requires a close look at all aspects of its budget.

“When looking at different staffing scenarios,” he said, “we made every effort to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. In this regard, we considered raising class size limits, yet decided against it.”

According to financial projections, the district is currently facing an operating budget deficit of $407,843 in FY16 and a deficit of $5.8 million in FY17. In order to continue to address the projected budget deficits, district leadership is currently reviewing non-personnel expenditures such as supplies and purchased services in an effort to further  reduce the FY16 budget by $1 million, according to the release.

In total, the district is proposing a reduction totaling $2.2 million (staffing costs and non-personnel expenditures) that will balance the 2015-16 budget and allow for the prepayment of certain operating expenditures in 2016-17, such as worker’s compensation, property liability, and medical insurance premiums.

“These actions will change the financial picture dramatically,” the release stated, “by balancing the FY16 budget and reducing the projected operating deficit in FY17 from $5.8 million to approximately $2 million. “

Several factors contribute to the steep increase in the deficit from FY16 to FY17 including adjustments to the projected Consumer Price Index (CPI), minimal increases in revenues (less than one percent), and substantial increases in projected expenditures.

The district budget is partially determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Over the past several years, the district’s projected budgets were based on a CPI of 2%. The most recent CPI, which is necessary to use to determine growth in property tax revenue, is 0.8%.

Because the district’s operating expenses are increasing at a rate that exceeds 0.8%, due largely to rising salary and benefit costs in addition to higher costs for purchased services such as property liability insurance and workers compensation, it made the reductions necessary.  Also, the district must address additional costs as it relates to special education tuition and the operation of Park School, the release stated.

“Due to the change in projected CPI, uncertainty with education funding at the state level, and deficits embedded within the budget, we are forced to make tough decisions,” Goren declared.

“While these changes are difficult, we must act now to be fiscally responsible,” he added. “These reductions do not take into account any changes the governor may make or the potential impact of Senate Bill 1, where the district may lose an additional $6.6 million,” Goren said.

Charles Bartling

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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