Mokena schools raising funds to close budget gap

April 26, 2010 (CHICAGO) Approximately $250,000 must be raised for southwest suburban Mokena School District 159.

At the end of the school day in the district, fourth and fifth-graders at the intermediate school hurry home. Some carry musical instruments, but music --as well as sports all other extracurricular activities-- will be phased out next year because of cuts the district has to make to fix a budget deficit.

"Without making these cuts, we would have been $3 and $3.5 million in debt next year. By making these cuts, even with the uncertainty in Springfield, we will probably be $1 million to $1.5 million in debt next year instead," said Karen Perry, Supt. Mokena School Dist. 159.

The community is holding various fundraisers, including a drive to generate cash for the district with the sale of old video games. The goal is to raise $250,000 to keep programs going for at least one more year.

This can only be for a one-year fix. We can't do this year after year. This has to go into cooperation with support for passing a referendum in November," Perry said.

The referendum would raise taxes, but it failed by a 60-40 margin in February.

"I'm against taxes being raised. They're high enough now. Back in my day, your parents wanted something, they paid for it," said Lois Renzoni.

In the meantime, there is concern about what the quality of education in Mokena would be like without supporting programs.

Ten-year-old Julie Bortsheller plays percussion in the school band.

"Extracurriculars are really something that helps the kids, and it gives them a learning experience, and it helps them know what they want to be when they get older," Bortsheller told ABC7 Chicago.

Class sizes will be higher next year, and kindergarten will be scaled back to a half-day.

District officials say they will be talking with the community to see if there is any more support for a referendum.

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