Archived Story

Niles Schools needs to trim about $3 million or go broke

Published 10:49am Tuesday, March 2, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Just hours before presenting an outline to members of the Niles Community Schools Board of Education, listing the districts overall expenses to consider when hammering out a budget for the 2010-2011 year, Superintendent Doug Law called it “the hardest budget I’ve ever had to put together.
“This is by far the worst-case scenario,” he said.

The outline, titled simply “Our New Reality,” is a wholly non-sugar-coated look at the district’s financial standing.

Taking into consideration a projected cut in state aid of $268 per student in the coming year, an estimated increase in retirement rate of more than 2.4 percent and a 5 percent pay increase to teachers should no contract be settled, Law’s report states bluntly, “we will be broke before the end of the 2010-2011 school year.”

No decisions have been made, but Niles Community Schools joins other area districts in taking a serious look at costs as deadlines near to finalize a budget.

Law put together a relative menu of those costs to give board members an idea of what they stand to save when they consider potential cuts.

“This is the research part,” Law said. “This is the whole.”

The cost analysis shows the district stands to save anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 if they were to adopt a pay to play style athletics program, $139,000 should they cut all extracurricular activities and $246,000 to move toward an all-day, alternate kindergarten bus schedule with no mid-day runs.
Those are just a few examples from the list of costs.

Some of the more prominent, stand out items include a savings of more than a half-million dollars if the district were to shrink back from an eight-period day to a six-period day and $319,000 saved from eliminating 4.5 behavioral specialist positions within the district.

“The list is not all-inclusive,” Law explained. And, he added, “there’s a plus and a minus to every single one of these (items).”

The board was given the cost analysis report in order to start the process of considering those cuts that will have to be made in the future. Law said his goal is to have a budget submitted to the board in May so it can be adopted by June.

The district budget is to be submitted by June 30. The state is not required to balance its budget, which will ultimately affect districts throughout the state until October.

Along with a cost list, Law provided six additional options that would result in a shifting of grades in some cases, building closings or swaps in others and even elimination of some services.
“There are still some things we’re working on,” Law said, stressing again the board had not made any decisions on what cuts they will have to make to fill an expected $2.7 to $3 million shortfall in the year ahead. “I’m not going to give any value judgment to any of these as of this point.”
The board will hold their regular meeting March 15 at the Westside Administration Building at 7 p.m.
Law said he was unsure at this time whether or not incoming superintendent Richard Weigel, who is still in contract negotiations with the board, would take part in any way with the setting of next year’s district budget.

How can Niles cut costs?
Before presenting his cost analysis to the board of education, Superintendent Doug Law said Monday the objective in looking closer at district costs would be “to see what is viable and what is not while trying to preserve as much of our educational program as we can.”
Some of these practices are already in progress within the district and a cost on others is still forthcoming.

Transportation
No high school students, single bus run – in progress
All-day, alternate kindergarten – no midday runs, $246,000
Expanding distance student walk to school – in progress
Eliminate district-funded field trips – $7,000
Eliminate transportation (except special education) – $1.4 million

Athletics
Middle school sports – $81,000
Middle school B teams – $24,000
Freshman sports – $46,000
Reduce varsity sports (at least two) – varies
Eliminate athletic transportation – $41,000
“Pay to play” ($50-$100 per sport) – $30,000-$60,000

Extracurricular offerings
All extracurricular activities – $139,000
Reduce extracurriculars by 75 percent – $104,000
Reduce extracurriculars by 50 percent – $69,500

Curriculum
Eliminate or reduce curriculum associates – $73,000
Reduce curriculum adoptions – $100,000

Security
Eliminate resource officer – $51,000
Eliminate security personnel – $70,000

Custodians
Reduce maintenance staff by one – $60,000
Reduce evening custodial staff, every other day cleaning – in progress
Reduce some full time positions to school year only – in progress
Privatize – uncertain (contract holds until end of 2011)

Secretaries
Reduce union secretaries by four – $110,000
Reduce exempt secretaries by one – $50,000
Reduce hours and weeks – $10,000
Privatize – uncertain

Teachers
NHS goes to six period day – $550,000

Eliminate/reduce non-teacher positions
Behavior specialists – $310,000
NHS librarian – $89,000
RL librarian – $40,000
ISR program (two positions) – $50,000
Energy educator = $16,000
Guidance counselor (two positions, $180,000)
CTE director – $40,000

Administrators
Reduce central office position – $125,000
Reduce building administrators by two – $240,000

Eliminate/reduce LRP line item expenses
Vehicle replacement – $34,000
School improvement – $25,000
Capital repair – $45,000
Capital Development Fund – $25,000

Reduce supply budgets by 5 percent – $50,000

Technology
Reduce equipment replacement – $50,000
Reduce software packages – $50,000
Reduce staff – $70,000

Building reconfigurations and closings

Option 1: Close Northside: $584,000
Drop Early Learners, give Head Start back to Tri-County, relocate two kindergarten classrooms and three preschool special education classrooms into existing buildings

Option 2: Close Oak Manor
Move sixth grade back to elementary, build eight-room portable at Ring Lardner and move Eastside to Oak Manor. Savings: undetermined

Option 3: Close Eastside and relocate classrooms to Howard and Ballard. Savings: undetermined

Option 4: Close Eastside and relocate classrooms to Howard and Butler, drop preschool programs and move kindergarten and primary 1 to Northside. Savings: undetermined

Option 5: Close Ellis and move first grade to Howard, drop preschool programs, move Kindergarten and Primary one to Northside. Savings: undetermined

Option 6: Transfer Southside program to Berrien RESA. Savings: $60,000

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