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‘They’re all going to hurt’

Balanced budget options for district include elementary school closure

Published: Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – If steps are taken, the Dixon school district could have a balanced budget by 2017, according to the superintendent.

But those steps include closing Lincoln Elementary, cuts to various school funds, and layoffs, which Superintendent Michael Juenger said he hopes could be done through attrition.

Juenger presented the school board with five options, labeled A through E, during its regular meeting Wednesday night. Each of the five options includes closing Lincoln.

The options were meant as a starting point for a discussion with the board, teachers and staff about the best way to get the school district to a balanced budget.

“They’re all going to hurt,” Juenger said Thursday. “We want to find the one that’s best for the school district.”

The school district is facing a $1.5 million budget deficit in its current fiscal year. If Lincoln were to close, its second- and third-grade students would move to Jefferson Elementary School. The fourth- and fifth-grade students at Jefferson would be housed at Reagan Middle School, according to Juenger’s proposal.

Each option also consists of about 10 percent cuts to special education, technology, sports, the Whiteside Area Career Center, the building budget, travel and professional development, in addition to reduced health care costs resulting from layoffs and retirements.

What differs in each option, Juenger said, is the number of layoffs and when they’re done.

Options A and D reduce the deficit to $772,834 in fiscal year 2015 and about $300,000 in fiscal year 2016, with 10 combined layoffs in Option A and 12 combined layoffs in Option D.

Options B and C reduce the deficit to about $500,000 in fiscal year 2016, and both put the deficit less at than $1 million for the 2015 fiscal year. There are 10 combined layoffs for Option B and 11 combined layoffs for Option C.

The most aggressive of the five is Option E, which includes eight layoffs in 2015 and six in 2016, bringing the deficit to $719,249 and $200,647, respectively.

Option E has the lowest deficit in fiscal year 2016, but with nine retiring teachers expected for the 2017 fiscal year, Juenger said, the final reductions on all the options could likely come through those retirements and hiring less-experienced teachers for lower pay.

The nine retiring teachers all have about 30 years of teaching experience, and hiring less-experienced teachers, who are paid a lower salary, to replace those nine positions could get the district to a balanced budget, Juenger said.

The school district also has three teachers retiring in 2015 and 2016, Juenger said, and those positions won’t be filled.

Difficult decision

During its October meeting, Juenger presented the school board with a proposal to close Lincoln. A public meeting was held Oct. 30, when Juenger gave residents and parents more information about the financial situation.

Among the concerns that have been raised are overcrowding, diminished education for the students, and mixing the second- and third-grade students with the fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Those similar concerns were raised by two residents during public comments at Wednesday night’s meeting.

In response to those concerns, board President Pam Tourtillott said she’s looking for the community to come together and share ideas.

“These times, for this board here, are very difficult,” she said. “Times we’ve never been in before. And your sentiment is our sentiment. Our job is to figure out how to educate our children with the money that we have, with the lack of money that we’re given.”

The school district has received less funding from the state in each of the past 3 years. The options given to the board include an estimate receiving 85 percent funding from the state, Juenger said.

Options open

Each of the five options presented to the Dixon school board includes three retiring teachers, who won't be replaced, in 2015 and 2016.

Each option also projects a budget that has the school district receiving 85 percent of its state funding.

Each option also includes Lincoln Elementary School's closure.

Option A

- Six layoffs for 2015 fiscal year and four for 2016

- 2015 fiscal year deficit of $772,834 and 2016 deficit of $311,446

Option B

- Four layoffs for 2015 fiscal year and six for 2016

- 2015 fiscal year deficit of $939,128 and 2016 deficit of $503,961

Option C

- Five layoffs for 2015 fiscal year and six for 2016

- 2015 fiscal year deficit of $977,906 and 2016 deficit of $522,898

Option D

- Six layoffs for 2015 fiscal year and six for 2016

- 2015 fiscal year deficit of $772,834 and 2016 deficit of $322,060

Option E

- Eight layoffs for 2015 fiscal year and six for 2016

- 2015 fiscal year deficit of $719,249 and 2016 deficit of $200,647

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