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Four retiring teachers will not be replaced in Flossmoor District 161 next year and nine bus routes may face the budget ax as school officials look to the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The reduction in teaching staff – one at Flossmoor Hills School, three at Parker Junior High School – is based on declining student enrollment. It will save the district $213,959 and is one of several cuts approved by the school board Monday to head off an impending $200,000 deficit as well as possible future shortfalls.

The board trimmed a total of $679,933, nearly all in categories that district administrators do not deem essential to classroom learning. Superintendent Craig Doster said District 161 can save another $300,000 through the elimination of nine current bus routes. Board members said the district will survey the community to gauge opinion on transportation changes and likely host a public forum before any bus route reductions are approved.

Board members also agreed to cut the equivalent of 1.5 full-time special education positions but may revisit the reduction if they learn that some of the positions are necessary for the coming school year. In addition, three full-time equivalent special education paraprofessionals will be cut although some of the positions could be restored if needed. The special education cuts will save the district approximately $106,980 for the teachers and $74,000 for the paraprofessionals.

District 161 officials are considering a host of cuts to 2015-16 budget that, if approved, would save the district $1.6 million. Administrators are putting together the district’s budget, which must be submitted to the state no later than September.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Frances LaBella said last month said she is already concerned about the state’s ability to make payments to school districts and warned that a severe shortfall in state funding could cause the district’s anticipated deficit to climb as high as $1 million. In December, she said, the Illinois State Board of Education approved $470,000, mostly for special education and transportation programs, but payment is being held up in the state comptroller’s office for lack of available funds.

Among programs spared was Outdoor Education, a popular decades-old nature program. Currently a two-night camping-style experience in Michigan, a proposed expenditure reduction called for Outdoor Education to be replaced by a one-day field trip to Irons Oak Nature Center in Olympia Fields. That would have saved the district $26,162. Although students pay a fee for the trip – last year it was $237 – the district must pay for a nurse to accompany fifth graders to Michigan, and cover other expenses like golf carts and walkie-talkies.

There was virtually no discussion about Outdoor Education on Monday but it was clear that board members were opposed to eliminating the current program, going so far as to approve a motion stating that Outdoor Education would not be cut from the new budget.

Additional cuts will be discussed by the board, and possibly approved, on April 16. Those cuts approved by the board Monday include:

  • Removing new curriculum as a budget line item, for a savings of $130,000.
  • Reducing the workbook budget, for a savings of $20,000.
  • Eliminating the purchase of new band instruments, for a savings of $10,200.
  • Eliminating the district-provided lunch on Wellness Day, for a savings of $2,160.
  • Changing the compensation for mentor coordinators from hourly pay to a stipend, for a savings of $6,819.
  • Reducing professional development not paid through grants, for a savings of $20,500.
  • Eliminating a room rental at Prairie State College for a teacher institute day, for a savings of $1,909.
  • Making adjustments to the Blue Point alarm system, for a savings of $80,000.
  • Eliminating a stipend for technology staff development, for a savings of $13,404.

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