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Shorewood asks residents for feedback on budget issues

School District officials will use comments to make decisions

Feb. 20, 2013

Shorewood - The Shorewood School District is considering input from the community as it shapes recommendations for its 2013-14 budget, including how to address a projected revenue shortfall of about $39,500.

The School Board on Tuesday held its last budget community session, attended by about a half dozen residents, to provide information on the budget process and timeline and gather feedback on the recommended addition or elimination of programs and services.

Business Services Director Mark Boehlke provided an overview of the budget process thus far and factors influencing the anticipated revenue gap.

Boehlke noted that the district originally planned for a $50 per pupil increase from the state, but the governor is proposing no increase in his recommended budget, which could create a larger revenue gap.

"For every $50 difference in that per pupil revenue, it equates to $83,900 to our revenue, so it could swing either way," Boehlke said. "So we're hoping that the governor gets pushed back and there's support for some sort of increase."

Proposed cuts

To help offset the revenue shortfall, the main reductions being considered include the reduction or restructuring of custodial/maintenance staff, reduction of secretarial staff, changes to the second year of the teacher mentoring program, and changes to the district's health insurance plan design, Boehlke said. Projected savings for each of those were not provided.

The district also is considering more than a dozen possible additions to better meet student learning needs, some of which include: additional support for English Language Learners at Lake Bluff Elementary; additional support for students with cognitive and learning disabilities; additional response to intervention strategies, such as implementing interventionist positions and an intervention software program for math and reading, particularly at the younger grade levels; offering of alternative programming and expansion of the character education program at the high school level; use of the district's Early Education Centers for kindergarten instruction; and expanded budgets for the district's communications coordinator and development director positions.

The Finance Committee was poised to discuss and evaluate the financial picture of those considerations on Thursday. The role of the committee is not to make any recommendation or decision on what to add or cut, board member David Cobb noted, but to present the different budget scenarios and financial implications to the School Board to help them make that determination.

Residents speak up

Resident feedback expressed at the community session included a desire to ensure that all students are being appropriately challenged.

"Within the positions that you want, there's a lot of money going into dealing with struggling students, which I'm not against, but I don't see the other end of the bell curve," parent Jennifer Essak said. "I don't see more AP classes, I don't see more languages, I'm not seeing anything for the students at the other end, and I'm just wondering, can that happen?"

Mike Halloran, a high school English teacher, indicated that the response to intervention approach is intended to address the needs of higher achieving students as well.

However, Essak said that often is not enough to challenge advanced students.

Meanwhile, parent Lisa Noble voiced support for the character education program in the district, pointing out that there should be a balance of preparing students both academically as well as socially and culturally.

"Some of these things are no less important, and it's hard to draw the line between where a kid is struggling academically and culturally," Noble said. "I think it's a bigger picture fix."

As the district considers what to cut or add, resident and former district employee Susan Hersh urged the board to also examine what has already been cut in order to make the best decisions for the district.

"I think there has been some thought given to, OK, where we can, let's rebuild some of those program opportunities," Superintendent Martin Lexmond said.

Hiring development director

Residents supported the addition of a development director as a way to help raise funds and protect programs in the district. Lexmond said the district will be interviewing applicants for that position this week.

Resident feedback will be taken into consideration as the Finance Committee and School Board discuss budget recommendations during the next several weeks, with the board set to act on the 2013-14 budget at a March 19 special meeting.

AT A GLANCE

Important upcoming dates in the 2013-14 budget timeline are as follows:

7 p.m. Thursday - Finance Committee discussion of budget

7 p.m. March 12 - School Board discussion of budget

7 p.m. March 19 - School Board action on adopting the preliminary 2013-14 budget

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