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With state finances not expected to improve this year and replacement tax revenues declining, the Monticello School Board will consider cuts to next year’s budget at its Feb. 20 meeting.
Superintendent Vic Zimmerman told the board last week that he will propose between $250,000 to $500,000 in cuts, which would begin with the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“It’s not panic time where we need to look at cutting a million dollars out of our budget, but if we don’t trim back right, now, and CPPRT (replacement tax) doesn’t make a turnaround in the next two years, we will be in a situation where the dollars just aren’t there,” said Zimmerman.
His main concern is the Education Fund, which had a $2.8 million fund balance going into this school year, but is projected to record a $900,000 deficit in 2012-13.
Zimmerman said budget-trimming items could include not fully replacing the five retiring teachers; cutting the number of preschool sections from two to one; reducing both staff at the grade school level and among non-certified staff such as custodial, aides and secretarial; reducing the number of staff for extra-curricular activities; and cutting the supply budget.
The superintendent did not have specifics last week, but felt it was time to address “the cliff that’s out there.
“Historically, we’ve been very proactive and trimmed up when we had to,” he added.
If $250,000 to $500,000 in cuts were approved, it would trim about 2 to 4 percent off the district’s education fund budget.
Last September, Zimmerman estimated costs savings of options it would take to cut significant dollars from the budget, such as cutting a section each grade at the elementary schools ($250,000 in savings).
Decreasing staff at the elementary level would increase class sizes, which over the past five years have averaged 15 to 26 students, depending on the grade.
“These would be deep, difficult, hard cuts,” said Zimmerman at the September session.
Despite an overall budget deficit of $2 million for the current fiscal year, the school board in December opted to do their best not to increase the property tax rate above the current $3.32 per $100 equalized assessed valuation. That would keep it as one of the lowest tax rates in Illinois.
Board members hope that the district’s largest revenue provider – Corporate Personal Property Replacement Funds – will rebound before tax rate increases are considered. CPPRT has dropped from $6.9 million two years ago to an expected $5.1 million for the current fiscal year.
The district entered this school year with $7 million in overall fund balances.