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Tue February 25, 2014
Dist. 186 Will Look At Additional Cuts To Budget
As Springfield public schools look to save around $5 million dollars, jobs and programs are on the chopping block. And yet, some say even those cuts would not save enough.
Interim Superintendent Bob Hill has suggested cuts for the next budget that include eliminating 30 high school teaching positions and some special education programming. School board member Scott McFarland says collective bargaining agreements might raise costs higher, which he says could mean the district actually needs to cut 6 to 7 million dollars from its operating budget. "We’re going into bargaining with our teachers (and) all of our employees this year. And when we go into bargaining - they have not budgeted for any kind of increase, even a step increase, which is guaranteed by their contract ... So even if we had what's called a 'soft-freeze' where they did not have a raise but they did receive their step ... we need to reduce by more than $5 million dollars, I would say we need to reduce by about $6 or $7 (million dollars)," explains McFarland.
Hill has agreed to recommend further cuts at the board meeting next week. McFarland says budget cuts are past the bone and into the marrow: "We've been reducing our budget for several years now and we have done it incrementally so we wouldn't have major cuts in one year. But now we have no reserve left, so ... we're going to have to balance our budget this year." Hill agrees none of the cuts will be easy. “Every one of these cuts will cause us to have less capabilities to provide the quality of education for kids next year that we want to be able to provide. We're to the point where all of these cuts hurt in significant ways,” he says.
McFarland says a property tax increase could help supplement the district's budget by around $10 million dollars. But he says while he supports the idea, he doesn't anticipate the school board will try to go that route this year. Hill was superintendent when the district tried to pass a property tax referendum in 2002 which failed. He and others say getting the public on board would prove challenging.