DIXON – The school board does not feel there is enough revenue to support teachers’ proposals, Superintendent Michael Juenger told about 200 to 300 people Sunday at a question-and-answer session.
The Dixon Education Association remains on strike and, if no agreement is reached during Sunday’s talks, a ninth day of classes will be canceled today.
People were packed wall-to-wall into the VFW Post 540 as others stood outside the entrance. Some adults even sat on the floor around a stage set up for Juenger and Board President Tom Balser.
“We have to be careful how we spend money,” Juenger said. “Within two to three years, our surplus could be gone.”
During a brief presentation, Juenger said the district projects a roughly $1.5 million deficit this school year and a $2.5 million deficit in 2014 that would wipe out the district’s Education Fund of $4.2 million.
He said a $1 million loss of revenue between general state aid and decreasing property values are to blame for the district’s deficit spending.
At times audience members became contentious, and Juenger told them it is unfair to accuse him or the board of not caring about the strike. One parent of a high school senior athlete pleaded for the board to give in and end the strike so students could return to school.
“Many of the board members took vacation time to be a part of this,” Juenger said. “That is one area where teachers and the BOE can 100 percent agree: ‘Let’s get this done.’”
Juenger took a handful of questions on special education and textbooks.
In regard to special education, Juenger said the district has followed state guidelines for students with individualized education programs, by keeping them in their least restrictive environments.
“We asked members of the teachers negotiating team to give us an example of where we weren’t meeting requirements, and they could not give us any,” Juenger said.
As for textbooks, Juenger said the district has not spent the amount budgeted for textbooks in the past two years. He said the district is looking at its needs and will buy books if they are needed.
The superintendent said makeup days will be negotiated in the contract.
Juenger defended the board’s vote to go ahead with construction of a sports and activities center last November, if the 1-cent sales tax had passed, saying the project had a revenue source behind it.
He also defended the board’s vote to give up $900,000 in tax dollars for the city’s tax increment financing fund (TIF), saying the reinvestment into the city is good for everyone.
The superintendent said allegations that he was asked to leave the negotiating table while working as an administrator in Litchfield are untrue.
Also, Juenger said content from the “Dixon Public Schools” Facebook page was deleted, because comments were “getting pretty ugly.”
About a dozen people came up to Juenger after the program in support of the board’s stance, shaking his hand or telling him “well done”.
Toni Willier, a parent of two, said she was unhappy with the board for not giving more mention to special education in the contract.
Dustin Boos, a Dixon taxpayer who will soon have a child in the district, said a lot of questions were left up in the air after Sunday’s meeting.
“I don’t know if I got all the answers to my questions,” said Boos, who asked if the board wants to get rid of the teacher’s salary schedule. Juenger said, “No.”
He added: “It’s unfortunate they’re stuck. I think our teachers are the greatest resource money can buy. I think the contract teachers have proposed would work.”