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Published: 6/6/2006

Schools face $1M in cuts if levy fails

Sports and other extracurricular activities would be eliminated in the Springfield Local School District if voters turn down an operating levy Aug. 8.

During a special meeting last night, the Springfield Board of Education outlined nearly $1 million in cuts that would be made unless the 3.5-mill levy is approved. By a handful of votes, taxpayers defeated the same levy request May 2.

Eliminating extracurricular activities at all grade levels would save the district an estimated $526,000, Treasurer Robert Moellenberg said.

Other planned cuts include eliminating bus transportation for high school students. Walking distances for other students would increase in an effort to reduce the number of bus stops, he said. Both measures would save an estimated $210,000.

Reducing the custodial staff would save $186,000; plans call for all schools to be closed 30 minutes after the end of the school day unless the levy is approved.

About $52,000 in other budget cuts would occur at the high school, including elimination of a security officer position.

These are cuts that nobody wants to make, said board member Ken Musch. However, without voter approval of the levy, school officials will be forced to make the nearly $1 million in cuts in order to balance the budget, he said.

By law, the district cannot operate in the red, he said.

Springfield is facing a projected deficit of about $600,000 for the coming fiscal year, the treasurer said. That figure could climb higher as a result of increasing operating expenses, he said, explaining why $974,000 in cuts has been recommended.

Some residents last night suggested that the school officials try harder to get the message out to voters about the need for the additional operating funds, but Mr. Musch noted that few people typically turned out for informational sessions before the May election.

Possible cuts, including elimination of extracurricular activities, was announced and publicized by the school officials before the May 2 vote occurred.

When asked by an audience member about the possibility of implementing pay-to-play, Mr. Musch said that was discussed by officials, but it will not be considered as an option because it would be too costly for families and many students wouldn't be able to afford to play.

School officials already have trimmed $750,000 in expenses from the 2006-2007 budget. Those cuts include field trips and staff reductions, such as counselors.

John Guercio, a taxpayer who said he supports the levy, said levy opponents need to know about the nearly $1 million in cuts. He offered to stand on a street corner with a sign to help get the message out that the district, hit with increasing operating costs, such as for fuel, utilities, and supplies, needs additional operating funds.

Wendy Obradovich, whose daughter will be a freshman this fall, said she was disappointed to learn that extracurricular activities would be slashed unless the levy is approved.

"I will talk to my neighbors. I will do what I can to get the levy passed," she said after the meeting. "I want it to pass."

If approved, the continuing levy would bring in about $2.5 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000, owner-occupied home $107 a year in taxes.



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