“We really see this as a revenue problem, and I do squarely put this on the state of Illinois,” Threadgill said.
The state currently is behind in $587,000 of payments to Ottawa Elementary Schools. Equalized assessed valuations continue to drop, Threadgill said, and the general state aid that was intended to make up for that loss is not closing the gap.
If the district is required to fund its own pensions next year — a move still under consideration by state legislators — then it can count on an additional $800,000 in expenses.
Federal funding continues to decline, and schools continue to face pressure to comply with unfunded mandates.
“We cannot sit here and hope that things are going to come through,” Threadgill said, later adding the governor is proposing a $400 million decrease to education funding next year — a cut that is twice what Illinois schools have seen already.
“It’s one of the other reasons why we are forced to look at making some very difficult decisions, because the future seems extremely bleak,” he said.
The measures Threadgill outlined publicly are at this time merely “considerations.” The board could act on any or all of them at the March meeting, but Threadgill said he wanted to give the community advance notice of what could happen. Before giving a slideshow presentation outlining these concerns and possible solutions, Threadgill acknowledged the administrative team was suggesting some difficult decisions.
“We could talk about things that are on the screen, but in reality we’re talking about real human beings,” Threadgill said. “That’s the unfortunate part of it, but we have really no choice but to act now.”
** Education Fund Referendum. After hearing Threadgill’s presentation, school board president Stephen Omolecki said the board should “give serious consideration” to requesting more tax money from voters.
“If we don’t increase our revenues, I think we could be faced with much more drastic cuts in the future,” Omolecki said.
** Fourth grade band becomes an after-school activity. This action required a lot of “thinking outside the box” to rearrange schedules, and could require parents to pick their students up after school, Threadgill said. But it would mean a savings of $250,000 for the district.
** Eliminate Response to Intervention reading teacher assistant support. The district has been mandated to seek Title I assistance from an “approved provider,” a requirement about which Threadgill has previously expressed frustration.
“That money in many instances is used to help support salaries,” Threadgill said. “In particular it’s used to support our reading specialist.”
Instead of paying their own “best staff” to address academic deficiencies, Threadgill said, the district was forced to seek outside providers, most of whom are for-profit businesses.
This measure would eliminate five salaries and save the district $132,500.
** Increase classroom sizes. ($44,018 estimated savings)
** Eliminate district printer position. ($20,000 savings)
** Eliminate data coordinator position. ($55,226 savings)
** Eliminate or reduce visits to the planetarium. (up to $3,694 savings)
** Reduce food service positions by two. ($38,000 savings)
These measures, added to a few other naturally occurring savings in next year’s budget, could save the district $702,473 in fiscal year 2014.
“Our board is trying to be fiscally responsible while at the same time providing the same services we’ve been providing,” Threadgill concluded, adding that he believes programs such as music, art and athletics are “extremely” important.
“It’s a very, very difficult situation, and we have spent so much time looking at every avenue,” Threadgill said. “I hope we don’t get to that point (of cutting programs), but at least if we ever are, we know that we’ve been trying to make every prudent decision along the way to try to save things as best we can.”
Amy Flanery can be reached at (815) 220-6975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
School board member Frank Polancic is stepping down from his post after 36 years of service to the district. Polancic, along with board member Michael Bannister, will not be running for re-election this spring. School board members Ron Henson and Maribeth Manigold will run for re-election.
One new candidate, Mark Fisher, is running to fill a seat on the board. The other seat will remain vacant after the election and will require the elected board members to take action to fill it.
Schools earn ISBE recognition
Lincoln Elementary School continues to meet Annual Yearly Progress and has earned recognition by the Illinois State Board of Education as a Spotlight School. Superintendent Cleve Threadgill commended principal Ryan Lemberg and staff on this accomplishment.
“That scale has only been going up and up over the years, and they’ve done a fine job,” he said.
ISBE recognized Jefferson Elementary School with an Academic Improvement Award for 2012. The school had fallen behind AYP but managed to meet it last year. Threadgill congratulated principal Ron Moir and staff on this accomplishment.
“This was not an easy feat, and the staff works very hard,” Threadgill said. “They did an excellent job.”
Graduation date set
Ottawa Elementary School Board of Education approved the date for Shepherd Middle School’s eighth grade graduation ceremony. Graduation will be Wednesday, May 29 at Ottawa High School.