District 150 facing tough budget choices

DeWayne Bartels
District 150 Treasurer, Guy Cahill, left, and superintendent Ken Hinton, listen to a reporter's question Monday afternoon.

The new year is not happy so far for District 150 superintendent Ken Hinton because he has the responsibility of trying to find ways to cut millions from this year’s and next year’s budget.

Hinton met with reporters Monday afternoon to go over budget cutting considerations he presented to the school board last night. The school district is facing a $2.8 million deficit for this school year and a deficit expected to grow to $7.5 million for the 2009-’10 school year without serious cuts.

“We have to be very astute with our budget,” Hinton told reporters.

Hinton had two pages of possible budget-cutting ideas to present to the board.

“We are forced to look at everything ... We’re doing our best to stay away from those things that will have an impact on student instruction.”

Among the most favorable areas to cut or revise in Hinton’s view for the 2008-’09 school year are:

* Cutting wage adjustments for himself and treasurer Guy Cahill for a savings of $12,500

* Deposit proceeds of the sale of Irving and White schools for $1.5 million into the operations and maintenance fund

* Seek employee insurance premium bid savings which could go as high as $301,650.

Among the least favorable ideas in Hinton’s view are:

* Eliminating bus monitor positions, not reimbursed by the Illinois State Board of Education, for a savings of $86,261

* Revisit the three-tier bell schedule for a savings of $75,240

* Cease rental of the Central Park pool from the Peoria Park District for a savings of $60,000.

The cost-cutting measures Hinton wants the school board to mull over for the 2009-’10 school year get tougher.

Among those measures are:

* Closure of a high school

* Eliminating behind-the-wheel driver’s education

* Optimizing class sizes

* Consolidation of individual school athletic directors into one district-wide athletic director.   

“We’re living in a new and very difficult time. We’re being pro-active. We’re not sitting back and letting things happen to us,” Hinton said Monday afternoon.

Cahill said the district has no choice but to make cuts if it hopes to maintain the A+ bond rating it now has from Standard & Poor’s.

While cuts appear inevitable Hinton said he has no intention of suggesting giving the Edison Project the ax.

Hinton and Cahill were looking for direction from the school board at last night’s meeting.

Board member Jim Stowell offered that the proposed cuts offered for the rest of this fiscal year are “more palatable” than those offered for later years.

Hinton and Cahill did not receive a great deal as far as direction from the board last night. Board members said they wanted more information. Board president David Gorenz scheduled a committee of the whole meeting for Monday night and suggested a second one be set for Wednesday or Thursday of next week for further discussion.