School district cuts programs, staff to save cash

November 3, 2009 4:26:33 PM PST
Authorities in Elgin School District U-46 have voted to cut some athletic programs and staff stipends to try and close a budget hole of almost $5 million.By Thanksgiving, the pool at Elgin High School will be emptied out and will sit unused the rest of the school year.

Ultimately, all five high school pools in District U-46 will be drained to save $200,000 in upkeep.

"When we go through difficult times here, we do it together," said David Smiley, Principal, Elgin High School.

Principal David Smiley says tough times are hitting the district hard. It's facing a $53 million deficit.

Administrators have announced an aggressive round of cost cutting measures to save nearly $5 million. It calls for reductions in teacher stipends, and cuts to athletic programs like cancelling the junior varsity teams at all the middle schools and some of the high schools.

"People get very fearful. if it's B level now, it could turn into freshmen or you lose a couple levels some place else, and what could it turn into," said Smiley.

"I can see they have to make some cut backs, but I don't think athletics is the way to go," said Debbie Stockman, parent.

"It's part of the socialization process, playing sports and we need it," said Gwendolyn Culpepper, parent.

A spokesperson for the district says the cutbacks are necessary but done in a way to minimize the impact on classroom instruction.

"We're seeing a reduction in revenue from both the state and local property taxes and, as a result, we have to make adjustments to our budget," said Tony Sanders, District U-46 spokesperson.

The district is already looking to next school year where they'll have to make $25 million worth of cuts. And this time, everything will be on the table.

"When you're dealing with school district, you cannot make these cuts without affecting people's jobs. That's the reality that we face right now," said Sanders.

In the meantime, academic records for the state's second largest district are improving but both educators and parents hope the cuts won't change that.


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