The District 300 Board of Education Monday approved a plan to prepare $6 million in stepped contingency cuts from next year's budget in case the State of Illinois descends into financial Doomsday.
Board President Joe Stevens painted a gloomy picture of the state's finances leading to possible bankruptcy until he was reminded the state isn't allowed to go bankrupt. "Well, I don't want to be around to see the taxes to pay for it," he said.
Finance Officer Cheryl Crates said the district needed to be ready for the worst in preparing its budget. She said she was worried, "in mid-Spring (2011) we may get a Dear John note from the state saying, 'We're sorry but we don't have the money.'"
Superintendant Ken Arndt disputed newspaper and blog speculation the district's financial worries were a smokescreen for a plan to ask for more taxes. "We are not going to have a referendum," he said.
Nor would after-school activities be held hostage. "We're not going to take away the extracurriculars," said Arndt.
Even so, money's tight at Distct 300. The board agonized for half an hour over spending $40,000 for design plans to revamp the kitchens at four schools. Updating the kitchens would cost $600,000 but the financing is decidedly iffy. Members worried kitchen design money would be largely down the drain if funding didn't show up.
Crates detailed how repairs come out of the operating budget rather than the capital one and the board voted ("reluctantly"--Stevens, "very reluctantly"--Monica Clark) to approve preparing the kitchen plans.
The board also wrestled with when to start the next school year which educators would like to begin in mid-August. Feedback from residents planning summer vacations has been largely negative. "This is the only topic I've ever been approached about in church," said Stevens.
Member Chris Stanton said the proposed early start was only out of sync for grade school parents. "This looks like a college schedule," he said.
The proposed calendar is here and won't be voted on until next month: