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ANALYSIS: What's Cut, What's Not in the D161 Budget

After Wednesday's meeting, which brought back full-day kindergarten, Patch outlines how this affects the district's overall plan to reduce its budget.

Toward the end of Wednesday's board of education meeting, board member Denise Wildeveld asked out loud what cuts had actually been made to trim the district's budget deficit.

It's a reasonable question given how quickly the district's financial landscape keeps shifting each time the board meets. Earlier in the meeting, as a way to cut about $3 million over three years from the district's budget.  

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Patch has put together what's been discussed at board meetings and in interviews with board members to give readers a look at what the district's current budget picture looks like.

How Much Needs to be Cut and How Much Has Been Cut?

That's the million dollar question. Or rather the $1.4 million question, the amount the board wants to cut this year. . Now that the board is no longer cutting full-day kindergarten, which was projected to give the district a $450,000 savings, that amount is now closer to around $500,000.

But that's a guess at best. Wildeveld at Wednesday's meeting asked Supt. Barb Rains to provide the board within the next few days the exact amount of reductions the board has made.

What Cuts are Off the Table?

Thanks to Wednesday's vote, full-day kindergarten is no longer one of the programs being cut. Also, board President Mary Kenny requested that discussion to reconsider eliminating reading specialists be put on the agenda for the board's Feb. 22 meeting. Bringing back the reading specialists would take away about another $250,000 in cuts, raising the amount of reductions that still needed to be made for this year to be closer to $750,000. 

What Cuts are Still On the Table?

From the talk from board members, it appears everything else is back up for consideration. In fact, board member Sean William Doyle warned Wednesday that the board was holding up too many programs as "sacred cows" and effectively boxing itself in when it came to budget cuts. 

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After last week's workshop, the board had pushed the decision , following a side-by-side study of the costs and savings involved in closing ,  or  schools. If a school were to be closed, it wouldn't happen until the 2013-14 school year.

Kenny now has put the closing of as many as two schools for the 2012-13 school year on the agenda for the Feb. 22 meeting. Closing two schools would give the district an estimated savings of about $1.18 million, according the projections provided by Rains and her staff.

Although it's an option no one wants to necessarily pursue, could now be put on the November ballot. However, the fact that 77 percent of district taxpayers don't have children in Summit Hill schools makes the possibility of it passing difficult. Wildeveld said Wednesday if the board continues to back away from cuts, this is the direction the district is heading.

One other cost-saving action that was taken out of consideration last week was increasing class-size limits. Board members said raising these maximums by as much as three students would have a detrimental effect for students. No one specifically addressed Wednesday whether this would be reconsidered, but it's a safe bet that increasing the maximums will be back up for discussion.

What About This Talk of Finding Savings in Other Areas?

The board members who supported keeping full-day kindergarten--Stacey Borgens, Denise Lenz and George Perros--have stated they feel confident that there are still some places where more cuts could be made. Lenz and Perros have both said more reductions could be found in . In fact, Borgens said she's passed along about $320,000 in suggested cuts, mostly in the administrative area, to Rains. 

Perros also said he wants to try to renegotiate some of the district's business contracts. One in particular he wants to look at is the $540,000 Johnson Controls contract for air and heating.

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But not all the board members are convinced that there really are hidden savings that haven't already been explored. 

"I can't see wasting time trying to look for these cuts because we've identified all the cuts we can make for now," Kenny said.

Are There Any Other Options That Could be Considered?

Doyle said Wednesday the board could look at reopening the teachers' contract, that it's possible the union could renegotiate its contract before it expires next year if it could prevent possible teacher lay offs. And staff reductions are possible "big-ticket items" that the board unfortunately needs to consider, Doyle added.

What's Next?

Right now, it's waiting until the board's Feb. 22 meeting when the board will discuss closing schools.

YOUR TURN: What do think the board still needs to consider to reach its goal of cutting at least $1.4 million this year? Tell us in the comments section.

working2gether February 11, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Not 3 taxpayer 2. FS and AH. @ concerned parent I think that is a good idea too. Though they would only save on a principal b/c all K teachers for the most part would follow. I also didn't mean that this should be done next year, I was just giving the example using the current enrollment. I agree 100% that the schools need to be looked at and what would really be the most cost effective schools to close. I just think that it is something that does have to be done in the future unless we see our enrollment increase a lot. I don't think the board should make any decisions too quickly without real research to back it up. It is what has been going on and almost what happened with FDK. Cutting that too will bring down property values. It seems like a lose lose situation when we look at the property values. I see your point on the empty buildings, but who would move here when they can move to Frankfort and get very good schools and FDK. I do think that this is a very tough situation. And by specials I mean art, PE, music, tech etc. That is how they have them listed on the website, as specials.
taxpayer February 11, 2012 at 03:02 AM
I had to re-read what you wrote. Sorry about that. You mean moving FS kids to MD & IT right? Whatever they decide, I am sure it will be well thought out. No one in their right mind would volunteer their time if they were not in for the children. No one has the right answer. I believe Ms. Rains is educated enough to bring this district in a positive direction.
concerned parent February 11, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I am sorry but this Union president is working with the board and his relationship is affecting judgement. We also need to protect the teachers! Whatever the board decides it is not gonna sit well because the community now does not have faith. I believe the closing of the schools was always where this was heading. Sad!
Sue Bauer February 11, 2012 at 03:26 PM
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Sue Bauer February 11, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Sounds like administrators and support staff will be taking the brunt of all this madness. Teachers were asked to open their contract and give back a little and they said NO!! No need to worry about the teachers, they take good care of THEMSELVES! Remember, it's all about the KIDS!
informed February 11, 2012 at 03:50 PM
@concerned parent, I have also heard the union VICE president is working with Sean William Doyle and her relationship is affecting judgement. WOW, We must be talking to two totally different people. @Joe Vince ~ have you received a response from the union president since your conversation after the Feb 4th workshop --- as to how his teachers feel about reopening the contract? Just wondering......
lynn February 11, 2012 at 05:04 PM
informed: I have heard the same about the union president. The difference is the Vice president is not dog walking all night long. Lets keep this civil people. This is about our kids. We need to work together!
informed February 11, 2012 at 05:38 PM
@Lynn, it doesn't surprise me that the Union President dog walks. He volunteers his time and efforts whenever needed. For instance, I saw that he has emceed the last two talent show benefits held at the Jr. high, I have seen him dressed up at the Jaycee haunted house, I noticed he is helping with additional fundraising by supporting the foundation - dancing with the teachers, I have heard he attends any and all events that this school community sponsors. The dog walking seems minor compared to all his other kind acts in the community. It sounds like he is friend to ALL. By the way just wondering why nobody is taking any notice of the VICE president of the teachers Union's connection with Mr. Doyle. Let's not shine such a bright light on Smalter unless we can shine it on EVERYONE. I bet he would walk your dog if you asked him too.
informed February 11, 2012 at 06:09 PM
@a concerned parent, actually my real concern was when a teacher I ran into yesterday told me that the vice president of the union has small children, she must live in this district and wanted Dist 161 to keep full day kindergarten. And Guess what Sean William Doyle was the magic bullet that made that happen... hummm when @concerned parent quoted at 9:20am TODAY (prior to my comment this morning) : "I am sorry but this Union president is working with the board and his relationship is affecting judgement". That is perfectly fine to post, but after I heard what I heard yesterday from this teacher i feel the union VP could have definitely influenced Mr. Doyle's change of heart.... So yes, i am shocked when I heard that she may have used her relationship with Mr. Doyle...because it is on record that he did reverse his decision. I hope members of this community not only watch who is walking who's dog, but watch out for other relationships as well.
lynn February 11, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Vp is not spending the night. Whats in it for the dog walker???? Principal job??? As far as volenteering time, so do many other teachers, but they are not affecting the districts well being. As far as Jaycees things - again that is his personal time he wants to spend with his dog walker friend. Lets try and work for the best interest of the kids.
informed February 11, 2012 at 06:41 PM
@lynn - "Vp is not spending the night".you we know that for sure...? Mr. Doyle and the VP can do whatever they want with their personal time... just reminding members of this community not only watch who is walking who's dog, but watch out for other relationships as well. you are correct all teachers are fantastic, @9:20am "I am sorry but this Union president is working with the board and his relationship is affecting judgement". That was the comment posted. Why are we always talking about the union president....what part of his relationship with the board is disturbing to you? I have not seen or heard of business benefits going in either direction, so what is this huge issue. He has been friends with the members of the board for years! Has the union president received a principal's job in our district for next year? Is that a done deal? Which school? That may actually be a plus for the district, not him!!
Sherri February 11, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Why do we care about dog walking?? Lets get serious, this does have relevance to our community. I urge people to go out and vote when board members are up for re election. We are all watching and its sad to see what is happening here.
informed February 11, 2012 at 06:55 PM
@sherri, I agree with you... my hope is that members of this community not only watch who is walking who's dog, but watch out for other relationships as well. You are right, Dog walking is getting old and very petty...it's just a distraction from what is really going on and the important issues.
Joe Vince (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 07:09 PM
@Everyone: Please stop with the veiled accusations of impropriety and unethical conduct between board members and union officials. If you have actual evidence that isn't simply water cooler rumor-mongering, e-mail or call me, use your real name, and we'll talk. I definitely want to know about it and will investigate it. Otherwise, keep it out of the comments section. There's been such a good discussion going on. Let's not cheapen it. Thanks, Joe Vince Local Editor, Frankfort
informed February 11, 2012 at 07:48 PM
@Joe, How do you decide when you are going to stop the negative comments? You seem to be choosing to put the fires out sometimes between boards and union officals...it seems to be inconsistent. If your going to put out one, you need to put out all. Is Sean William Doyle calling you...... complaining?
Joe Vince (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 08:19 PM
@informed: 1) No board members have called to complain about these comments. Also, Doyle wasn't the only board member being discussed in this thread. 2) This isn't about negative comments. Readers have been free to criticize officials here without me saying a peep. When it gets into the realm of unsubstantiated claims about personal lives and improper behavior is when I'll step in. I haven't deleted the comments, but I want to stop the comments drift and have people stick to the topic. 3) If it looks like I'm inconsistent, some of it is because I give the commenters some space (except in extreme cases of bad behavior) before I step in. The other reason is I'm only human, and I miss some comments. Does that answer some of your concerns? Joe Vince Local Editor, Frankfort
taxpayer February 11, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I have to politely disagree with you here. These teachers are working their tail off to teach our children. They are not taking good care of 'themselves". They are taking care of our children. They are the lowest paid around. As a "taxpayer" I believe that their contract should not be reopened. Here is why..........next year when its time to renegotiate their contract, they will be getting zip. Lets not turn into Mokena and start bashing our teachers. I believe 99% of our teachers deserve every little penny they are making.
informed February 11, 2012 at 09:15 PM
@Joe Vince, just because someone says teachers union president or vice president of the board of education or the president of the board of education doesn't mean they're not naming people. (they could look it up online) This is a double standard.....be fair to ALL! @Joe, you should have stopped the conversation @9:20am on 2/11! Or before this, if it is true about posting unsubstantiated claims. I'm sick of hearing about the dog walker and the sleep overs....all unsubstantiated claims. @920am TODAY! "I am sorry but this Union president is working with the board and his relationship is affecting judgement." Where is the verification on this statement? @Joe, if this is what this blog is intended for, and you want all unsubstantiated claims to stop then why have a blog....because all of it is unsubstantiated claims. This is the danger of a blog like this....Union VP does have very small children, she is friends with Doyle, and Doyle did reverse his vote and we all know the union president is friends with EVERYONE! All I did is put it all together. Why stop it now, when we continue to hear about the same crap over and over again! Not to mention Barb Rains spends a multitude of hours explaining in detail over and over, people come on your blog and destory her message along with her plans. So either catch it right away or shut down the blog. Bottom line...these blogs are dangerous and unnessary. How do you decide whats true and what isn't?
taxpayer February 11, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Thanks Joe. This constant talk about who is sleeping with who is driving me nuts, and I really could care less. My concern is the children of 161 and their education.
informed February 11, 2012 at 09:45 PM
@joe, by the way your stories are great.... Your doing a great job keeping the community aware of what is going on and you seem to be fair in your articles. Your blog is unfair and unnecessary.
Rose C February 11, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Thanks Joe. We need to stay focused on the real issues here. I would like to make one comment to Sue Bauer. It's not fair of you to bash the teachers or their contract that was negotiated in good faith. Would it be great if they wanted to refuse a pay increase - of course. But they don't have to. And you should not be persecuting them for refusing. However, I don't think anything has been said officially yet. Our teachers work damn hard. I think you would be hard pressed to find ANYONE who would refuse a pay increase these days. Sue - are you aware that teachers spend their 'free' time on preparing lesson plans or grading papers? They spend their own money on supplies? Before you go slamming people who spend more time during the day with kids than most parents, take a deep breath and think about what you're saying. And then take a good look in the mirror and tell the rest of us how YOU are sacrificing for the kids in this district!
informed February 11, 2012 at 10:46 PM
@Rose C, you are correct teachers negotiated their contract in good faith. many teachers work hard educating our children. They bring work home and attend school events when their "off the clock"....thank you for supporting our teachers and their contract. I believe the district reimburses teachers for some supplies...I'm sure they still spend money out of their own pocket during the school year on supplies.
My Two Cents February 11, 2012 at 11:23 PM
I am quite concerned about how our board is "operating". On Saturday, they have a workshop where they decide to cut FDK to HDK as well as make a few other cost saving efforts. They leave the boardroom, with a decision, after reaching a concensus. They give Superintendent Rains the job to implement these changes. Superintendent Rains e-mails parents and staff on Sunday with the boards decision and direction. She probably met with the kindergarten staff before Wednesday's Board Meeting and told them the changes that would take effect for the 2012-13 school year. Everything is in place and she is setting things in motion. Then the board decides to reinstate full day kindergarten. Is this the way a board should operate? Should Superintendent Rains have to deal with a different direction from the board four days later? Should she be "surprised" at the board table by this vote? I guess, I am really disappointed in the way the board is "operating" or the "process" of how decisions are made. Please, think through your decisions, do not make hasty decisions, and do not keep changing the direction you are giving the superintendent to follow!! It isn't right!!
My Two Cents February 12, 2012 at 12:12 AM
@ Joe Thanks for the good articles, and keeping us up-to-date and informed about what is happening in our school district!! I did try to get in on the "live blog" on Wednesday nights board meeting, but the "Patch Site" was down and I wasn't able to. My suggestions for cutting the budget would be: 1.) I have heard that the Principals and Assistant Principals get full "Family Insurance Coverage" for free. If this is true, perhaps they could get free single insurance and have to pay for the "family". This could save the district money. In the "real world" employees do not get free insurance. They pay a portion for single insurance as well. Just a suggestion... 2.) I have heard that when a Superintendent or Principal decides to retire early that the district has to pay TRS for it. Do you know if that is true? If so, could you provide the amounts that the district paid for the early retirements of Supt. Pain and for the FDK Principal last May/June and for the Arbury Hills principal who retired two years ago? Couldn't something be written into their contracts that states if they decide to retire early that they are "solely" responsible for the early retirement cost to TRS? I think that might save some money in our district and not hurt the children's education. Since contracts are yearly, this could help out in the 2012-13 school year and beyond. Just a suggestion........
Rose C February 12, 2012 at 12:24 AM
@ My Two Cents - I'm not defending anyone here, but I will say it again. Only one Board Member changed direction on Mrs. Raines. Sean Doyle. Everyone else came down on the same side as they did on Saturday. I'm not saying he's right or wrong - but he is the ONLY person who changed their mind Wednesday night. I think the discussion at both meetings was better than we've seen in the past - open dialog. To say you have a problem with the 'process' confuses me. The board gave Mrs. Raines direction last Saturday. A board member asked that FDK be put on the agenda for Wednesday. After a discussion - pretty much the same discussion from Saturday - the vote was cast and the direction changed because of Mr. Doyle. The difference between Saturday to Wednesday, a different audience. FDK parents came out. Mr. Doyle changed his mind - with no explanation, and being touted by some as a hero. Really? Now the board has to find other places to cut - possibly close a building or 2. I look forward to see which school can pressure Mr. Doyle the hardest and ultimately keep their building off the chopping block. He seems to be the only one waffling, you should call him and ask him about his process and why he 'surprised' Mrs. Raines at the meeting. You cannot blame the other 6 for creating confusion - at least not this time.
Joe Vince (Editor) February 12, 2012 at 01:00 AM
@informed: I'm not sure why you think my comment only applied to one of the board members. Because it applied to both. If it's because of the timing, well, that's just when I happened to get to the comments. There are times I'm not online. In the past in other stories, I've warned readers about making these types of accusations. This isn't something I just started doing today. This isn't a blog; this is a comments section where readers get to voice their opinions. People have been having a great discussion before this last bit, showing how much they care about the district and the students and staff in it. They might not agree with the board, Supt. Barb Rains or any of the solutions, but that's their right. I've seen commenters police themselves, telling other readers to stick to the topic at hand, and honestly, that's usually helps matters without me stepping in. What doesn't help: Lobbing other accusations and escalating the conflict. Also, I--as well as other commenters--try to correct misinformation to stop it from going further. So I would disagree that this is dangerous and unnecessary. I'm glad you like the coverage. Presenting these contentious issues fairly is what I strive for. If you still want to discuss this, I would suggest we take it offline, and you can e-mail (joev@patch.com) or call me (815-219-6961) to talk about it. Joe Vince Local Editor, Frankfort
Joe Vince (Editor) February 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM
@My Two Cents: Unfortunately, we had a lot of site problems that night. Sorry about that. I'll be live blogging the Feb. 22 meeting, too. Joe Vince Local Editor, Frankfort
My Two Cents February 12, 2012 at 02:02 AM
@ Rose - Perhaps, I was being too kind and did not single out a specific board member. I did not intend to give the impression that I was blaming the other 6 board members for creating confusion either. Sorry!! This is how I view things. The "board" of education is comprised of 7 elected individuals. Each board member is important and has the same "role". No individual board member is "greater" or "better" than any other board member. No individual board member can give the Superintendent direction, it has to come from the "board" as a whole! When a decision is made by the seven individual board members, it is a "board decision". When the board of education made their decision on Saturday to eliminate FDK and only offer HDK it was a board concensus. A decision had been made and direction was given to the superintendent to proceed in a certain direction. She went with that direction. Then at the board meeting when an individual board member voted a different way, it had a HUGE impact on the previous direction the superintendent was previously given. That is what I feel is wrong. I expect board members to talk and discuss their feelings at the board table. But when a decision is made and you give the superintendent direction you can't change that decision. If board members keep changing their minds at every board meeting over MAJOR decisions we're in trouble! Also, you will always hear that it was a "board decision" not a decision made by board member X.
Rose C February 12, 2012 at 05:25 AM
@ My two cent - I agree. The board had made a decision. I was just pointing out that it is unfair to take issue with the entire board when one board member changed course. You seem to be the first person on this site who doesn't blame specific board members, which should be commended. I have read many a post attacking members of the board specifically or blaming the entire board for actions that took place well before this board (April 2011) was in place. I apologize if you felt like I was attacking you. We need more people that see the entire picture and understand HOW a board works.
My Two Cents February 12, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Thanks Rose!!

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