Minooka grade schools make more budget cuts
By Kris Stadalsky Correspondent March 4, 2013 10:02AM
Updated: April 9, 2013 11:01AM
Now in its fourth year of a deficit reduction plan, Minooka Grade School District has found a way to cut an additional $768,000 from next year’s budget.
The biggest chunk, $500,000, will come from transferring money from the district’s health insurance fund to the education fund.
Since the district became self-insured — paying the majority of claims directly instead of paying an insurance company that makes a profit — it has been able to build a significant surplus in the health insurance fund.
“It’s not something that can be continuously done,” Superintendent Al Gegenheimer said.
The district found itself in a multimillion-dollar deficit because of falling EAV and a reduced commitment from state and federal aid, Gegenheimer said.
The district has lost $120 million in equalized assessed valuation of property in the past three years.
“Three million dollars was lost in three years, in real revenue dollars, just because the EAV dropped,” Gegenheimer said.
The original plan called for reducing the district’s budget by $2.4 million. The district has surpassed that and cut more than $3 million, Gegenheimer said.
The 2013-14 budget eliminates a few part-time positions for savings of $20,000. Cashiers at Minooka, Jones and Aux Sable elementary schools will be eliminated and school secretaries will pick up the slack.
One retiring teacher will be replaced with a first-year teacher, saving $30,000 in salary and benefits.
Student registration fees will go up, reflecting a $10 to $14 increase per student. Students in Early Childhood and kindergarten will pay $105 and grades 1-8 will be charged $150 or $134 if no physical education uniform is purchased. The higher fees will bring in $30,000.
Student activity fees will be raised from $30 to $40 for a revenue increase of $10,000. A $5,000 savings will be made by replacing a crowd control person at junior high sports events with volunteer staff and charging a $1 admission fee for sixth-grade games.
Since the board approved decentralization in August from the Grundy County Special Education Co-op’s pre-school diagnostic team for the upcoming year, the district will save $90,000 by adding one social worker and utilizing existing staff to do the work.
Other reductions will save $118,000 or more. They include sharing a technology person with a neighboring school district; including one-on-one special education aides in a Medicaid fee for service reimbursement; renting out space in the district to outside programs such as Montessori preschool, Grundy County Special Education Co-op STARS and Bridges programs; reducing printing costs by 10 percent districtwide; and pursuing more grant funding and revenue opportunities.
“We are always trying to find a little something to tweak but we really don’t have a lot more to trim,” Gegenheimer said. “We just don’t have any more major cuts to make.”
The district has a per pupil operating cost of $7,495 compared with the state average of around $12,000.
At the same time, schools consistently have won the Bright Star Award for high student performance at low cost.
“We have cut to the bone. It’s reflected in our per pupil operating expense,” Gegenheimer said. “I feel pretty good. We are very efficient, and we make good use of our tax dollars.”