Major cuts needed, Danville school officials say
DANVILLE — School district administrators estimate they need to cut $400,000 to $500,000 in salaries and benefits for next school year to maintain a balanced budget.
Administrators told the Danville school board during its regular meeting Wednesday night that cutting an additional $100,000 in supplies and travel costs is also necessary.
Heather McKiernan, the district's financial officer, made a brief presentation showing board members that the district's almost $22 million in fund balances would drop to $18.1 million by the 2014-2015 school year if staffing and expenses remain the same, because overall expenses are outpacing revenue.
District administrators and board members have been discussing the district's financial outlook for the last couple months, taking into consideration the decline in local equalized assessed valuation and the state's fiscal problems that create uncertainty about the district's state funding, pension costs and more. The district also is launching into negotiations again with the Danville Education Association, which represents the teachers and other staff members in the district.
Superintendent Mark Denman said some of the $400,000-$500,000 cuts in salaries would be in positions that were added in the last two years using the more than $2 million the district received from the federal jobs bill. That money was not a permanent source of revenue but was specifically for hiring, which the district did, adding social workers and other positions throughout the district.
But Denman said Wednesday night that while many of those positions are beneficial to the district, they are not necessary. He said administrators will come back to the board at a later date with more specifics about where the cuts would be. Although they plan to cut, he said they already know that they will have to add four elementary school teachers next year, because enrollment is up at those grade levels.
Denman said he doesn't believe it would be prudent for the district to keep the same staffing levels and spending knowing the uncertainty at the state level and the loss of the federal jobs bill funding.
Robin Twidwell, president of the Danville Education Association, asked McKiernan how much money is in the district's education fund, the district's main operating account that covers salaries, benefits and other day-to-day operating costs. McKiernan said there's an $11 million balance.
Sean Burns, a staff member with the Illinois Education Association, brought up another financial indicator, asking McKiernan how many days the district could survive on existing funds with no revenue. She said about 179 days, which is about one school year. McKiernan said that she doubts that's what the district would want to do.
But Burns responded that he also doubts the district wouldn't see any more revenue either. Burns added later that the education association knows the district's financial health is important, but the district shouldn't be unwilling to dip into its "rainy day" fund and use that money to support education in the classroom.
"I don't see the ship sinking soon," he said.
School board President Bill Dobbles said the district will always strive to provide what's best for students and not let finances totally dictate education in the classroom.
The school board then discussed spending about $145,000 to add a junior ROTC program at Danville High this fall, a suggestion by one of the board members.
Danville High Principal Mark Neil reported that none of the branches of the military are very interested, except the Air Force, but that branch also is not certain. Most of the board members agree that such a program could be beneficial to students, but some expressed concerns with spending that much money at the same time that they plan to make cuts.
The board decided to continue exploring the possibility of adding the program, but is not yet committing to the program or any spending.