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D229 Considers Reducing Courses To Offset Growing Budget Deficit

Oak Lawn Community High School Dist. 229 superintendent admits he's not overly optimistic of district's efforts to reduce deficit spending without take drastic steps at first of two public forums.

D229 officials floated a plan to possibly cut the number of classes that student is allowed to take in an attempt to stem deficits in the 2013-14 school year.

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The measure was unveiled last week during the first of two public forums to discuss budget planning and rising deficits at . The district is also considering a bond sale to help offset $500,000 in deficits when school reconvenes next month.

Referring to a PowerPoint presentation, assistant superintendent Rick Hendricks told parents, teachers and community members that the district could start running up annual deficits of $1 million beginning next year unless drastic steps are taken.

See the PowerPoint presentation for the budget planning forum.

“It we don’t make significant changes now at some point in time we won’t have sufficient funds available to continue to operate the school,” Hendricks said, D229’s financial manager.

Hendricks blamed the flat real estate market from the 2008 recession on deminished tax refunds from Cook County, and only partial payments from the state of what is owed to the district.

The D229 board of education has been working with district officials on a possible $8.2 million bond sale to generate income for the district, $1 million of which will be pumped into the district’s reserve fund. The remainder will be allocated to 2012-13 operational expenses and facility improvements for the 60-year-old school building.

D229 superintendent and OLCHS principal, Michael Riordan, said that the school board would vote on a preliminary operating budget in August, and the final operating budget in September.

The operating budget for the upcoming school year is $29,155,438 based on projected tax revenues. Projected expenditures for 2012-13 are forecast at $29,655,096—representing a $499,558 deficit.

Monies from the bond sale would “help the school make ends meet” in the coming school year.

“We’re cut to the bone,” Riordan said. “It would be difficult to cut another $500,000 from the budget.”

In addition to eliminating a combined 10 teaching, staff and full-time substitute positions, the district eliminated 19 extracurricular coach and faculty sponsor positions in 2011. The district also introduced student fees for sports and extracurricular activities, and combined some clubs. 

The OLCHS teachers union agreed to forgo 6 percent of contractual raises over the next two years, Riordan said.

One of the proposed scenarios for 2013-14 was to limit student course enrollment from 7 to 6 classes. Since 2004-05, OLCHS students have been able to take up to 7 courses per semester.

Enrollment restriction would result in at least 60 less sections representing a $520,000 reduction in personnel, or eliminating 7-9 teaching positions. The district is also considering consolidating support staff positions through retirement and attrition.

“[The goal] is to get expenditures even with revenues, and roll reserves over a period of time,” Riordan said.

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The superintendent/principal said changing back to a 6-class course load is commensurate with other comparable high school districts in the region.

Students most likely to be impacted by the proposed enrollment restrictions are those taking music, art, technology and foreign language electives.

Asking for the public’s input, several parents suggested holding fundraisers for such programs as music, or seeking private grants.

Riordan said the school has made attempts to increase fundraising by holding carnivals and benefits with moderate success, but not enough to keep pace with the growing half-million-dollar deficits.

“We’ve done quite a bit already to get costs down to maintain the same pace as revenue, but only made minimal progress,” Riordan said.

Parents also asked about holding a school referendum, but after the 2007 referendum passed, the district agreed to a ten-year moratorium.

“There is no board consensus at all that a referendum would be prudent to pursue,” Riordan said. “A lot of energy would be expended with very little chance of success.”

Kathy Barry, a parent, said there is a public perception that the district and board has already made its decisions.

“I want to know if that is true,” Barry said. “If it isn’t true than what you’re doing to combat public opinion that the decision has been made.”

Riordan said the district has been talking about the need for an adjustment for the past few years.

“A decision has not been made,” Riordan said. “I have to admit that I’m not overly optimistic that we can [reduce] expenditures without taking this next drastic step.”

Asked the day after the meeting if being a one-school district has contributed to D229’s financial woes, Riordan said: “I don’t think or know of any significant differences between single or multi-school districts. All school districts are having budget problems due to diminished revenues.”

D229 has set up a web page including the PowerPoint presentation from last Thursday’s meeting on the budget planning process. Answers to the public’s questions will be transcribed and posted to the website. Community members can also email questions before the next public forum scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 23, in the media room.

OakLawnGuy July 25, 2012 at 09:19 PM
The cherry on the voucher sundae is this: what happens when the State Of Illinois runs out of money, and vouchers become IOUs? This will certainly happen, they can't pay their bills as it is. Will Brother Rice accept a note with $3000 printed on it that isn't worth the paper it's printed on? Are they willing to get in line behind OLCHS, Richards, Hannum, Simmons, OLHMS, etc. with their hand out for payment? I think that answer is NO.
lou July 25, 2012 at 10:01 PM
quite drinking the kool aid oaklawnguy the voucher system would force our public educators 2 do a better job. why do u think the unions r so set against them.and 4 your info it cost way more per student in public schools. get yer facts straight.
SpartanPride July 25, 2012 at 10:19 PM
With so many opinions here, go over to OLHS in August and offer up money saving ideas in the forum. 1,800 students in the school. 20 parents show up to discuss the issue. during last school year, there was a seminar for parents on substance abuse. attendance by parents? barely over a dozen.
SpartanPride July 25, 2012 at 10:23 PM
when was the last time you've heard that a union opened a current contract and make salary concessions before the contract end date? think hard.... how about a teachers union? think real hard. what the teachers, admins and board accomplished with those concessions for the last 2 years is testament that all want to work together to do it right for our students in oak lawn. the parents in oak lawn need to wake up, smell the coffee, and get engaged with making the community and their school a better place.
lou July 25, 2012 at 10:28 PM
thats true spartan, it was mighty nice of the teachers union 2 postpone their raises while the rest of us struggle
SpartanPride July 25, 2012 at 10:42 PM
take a look at your tax bill and compare against last year. now look at who is getting what. do you see the chunk that the k-8 gets?
prophet12155 July 25, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Oh yes, what a concession and heartbreak to open the contract! The salary increase over the 4-5 years of the contract was 40-50%!!!!! WHO GETS THAT PERCENTAGE OF AN INCREASE IN THIS DAY AND AGE!?!? Please, once the staff learned that there would be STEEP cuts in the number of jobs, you bet your butt they reopened the contract, they didn't want to lose their sweet, sweet union job with tenure. The teachers wanted to do right for THEMSELVES, not the students. If they really wanted to do right by the students, then maybe the staff would take less of a stipend for all of OLCHS sports teams (non-winning ones, of course, except bowling) and that the stipend wouldn't be based on number of years that you have had tenure in the district. The selflessness is just astounding.
lou July 25, 2012 at 10:59 PM
thanks prophet,finally someone with the courage 2 say it like it really is!
lou July 25, 2012 at 11:05 PM
spartan, i wish i still had a tax bill, lost my union job 2 illegals, then lost my house.now renting
oaklawndad July 25, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Prophet- Don't forget about the Cook County tax rate caps that virtually ensure that the revenue increases OLCHS would receive over the life of that contract would pale in comparison to the actual raises received by the teachers. Also, I think the teachers received those first two years of increases so that is a pretty nice bump before having to settle for a couple of 3% or 4% years. I honestly do not know how that last contract sounded like a good idea to anyone involved. Granted the Union didn’t need to give any concessions somebody on their side should have seen those raises were a bad idea to begin with.
oaklawndad July 25, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Exactly which K-8 district are you talking about? There are at least two that feed into OLCHS and I believe both districts offer pre-school in addition to K-8. Both have recently built new buildings or modified their existing buildings. Both have expanded their programing and made considerable investments into their technology programs. One even went so far as to add minutes to the school day-not take away a learning period. How do their teachers contracts compare? What additions has OLCHS made to enhance the students education?
oaklawndad July 25, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Spartan Pride- Since the comparison of the elementary school districts and the high school has come up. Maybe you can tell me why are the fees at OLCHS six times what I pay at my local K-8 school? What is the salary comparison between the average high school teacher versus the average elementary school teacher? Please remember you started the comparison not me.
oaklawndad July 25, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Now that’s the oaklawnguy I was looking for!
oaklawndad July 25, 2012 at 11:38 PM
lou- I am still waiting for you to provide some info on how the voucher system works. Please remember that typically private schools do not pay their staff much as public schools, don’t offer retirement, are not held to the same educational standards as public schools and can refuse to accept a student. They also receive some monies from the public school depending upon local grants received and depending upon which school, they take a cut from the whichever church they are affiliated with (this assumes you are talking about religious based private schooling) and are also supported by alumni to a greater degree than public schools (for whatever reason that may be).
oaklawndad July 25, 2012 at 11:49 PM
SpartanPride- There was also a freshman orientation that was poorly attended by many staff members and administration. Your point is? I personally had a prior engagement but do intend on attending the next meeting. Will you be there? If so, are being paid to be there? Was the information send to every tax payer in the district or only parents? How about the phone blast?
lou July 26, 2012 at 12:14 AM
let me explain one more time 2 oaklawndad, vouchers will make the teachers that dont care anymore work harder 2 keep their job when they see parents taking their kids out of public schools and in to charter or other private ones. the parents would have a choice of the school.i think the parents know what would b better 4 their child.that would bring our failing education system up to our standards not the governments. and why should tax payers pay 4 any ones pension. most of us are hurting
OakLawnGuy July 26, 2012 at 12:24 AM
I'm not drinking the kool aid so I don't have to "quite". "mer" facts are straight. All you do is say "vouchers vouchers vouchers". I'm sorry you lost your job (to which illegals?), I'm sorry you lost your house, but you still don't know what yer talking about. I mean, "you're".
oaklawndad July 26, 2012 at 12:26 AM
And where is the proof that this system will work? I have read you spout the same line over and over but you haven’t provided a link. I agree that the pension system in Illinois is screwed up. The upcoming changes in state law will hold teachers more accountable. You can dictate what the standards are if you get involved. This isn’t a movie, sitting here saying “vouchers” three times will not make them magically appear. Which of the local private schools could absorb the 2000 kids at OLCHS that would obviously go streaming out the door to the promised land of education? Build a charter. With what money and how long will that take?
OakLawnGuy July 26, 2012 at 12:27 AM
If u h8 the teachers 2 much, thatz OK. I u h8 thr union, thatz OK. "Vouchers vouchers vouchers" RguMint still holdz no fax.
lou July 26, 2012 at 12:46 AM
thanks 4 the correction, i went 2 olchs. is oaklawnguy and oaklawndad the same person? r u guys teachers? oh and did i say illegals, sorry i meant undocumented
lou July 26, 2012 at 12:51 AM
hopefully wer done talking about public education and we can talk about r useless us postal service. ( i mean were and are)
oaklawndad July 26, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Lou- I am not oaklawnguy and I work in the corporate world (the land of pay freezes, outsourcing, rising healthcare costs, and fund your own retirement) as does my wife, the kids are school age and the dogs have their papers. Let’s keep it one issue at a time, but I do enjoy getting Christmas cards in the mail.
OakLawnGuy July 26, 2012 at 01:26 AM
The question as to why taxpayers should support a pension should have been addressed dozens of years ago, moot point now. The idea of having a choice of schools to attend, a true choice, is in practice a fallacy under a voucher system. What would need to be worked out is how the private schools would be allowed to pick and choose who they want to attend their schools - and make no mistake, they will be picking and choosing. Johnny's Mom and Dad wanting him to attend St. Baptism will not guarantee that he gets to go there, and the school's option will not be limited strictly to grades. Teachers will not have to work harder to keep their jobs because they will still be tenure-based, and if a teacher has tenure, it's going to take a paper trail a mile long to get rid of that teacher. In short, vouchers are not the answer, and they will guarantee, IN NO SHAPE OR FORM, higher quality education OR a wide open choice of schools. Really - read up on the voucher movement, and the reasons why it is not the education standard.
OakLawnGuy July 26, 2012 at 01:28 AM
No, not a teacher and no relation to Oak Lawn Dad. We put 3 kids through OLCHS, they were very successful, and proof that what you will get out of that school what you put into it.
lou July 26, 2012 at 01:49 AM
tenure or not they would b laid off if they didnt have kids 2 teach.by the way, i dont hate teachers, just bad ones . they have a big influence on our kids.as for the mile long paper trail, u just made my point 4 me. teachers union is a big part of the problem. lets really put the kids first. god bless u guys ,its been alot of fun talking to both of u.i hope thers no hard feelings and id love 2 send both of u Christmas cards.
QC?? July 26, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Why does OLCHS need a superintendent When there is only one school in the district?? Never understood that. Public sector unions are killing this country. The government won't fund the pensions, the unions don't want to give up the perks and want raises when most private section employees see hours cut,benefits lost and no raises. It's called shared sacrifice
Gary July 26, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Why are we paying over 30 teachers over $90000 a year, for a job that only lasts 9 months? The only teachers that deserve that much are coaches, and teachers that are required to work extended days. Just because they get a Masters, does'nt make them a better teacher to our students! And why do we have to pay a incoming superintendent more that the person they replace? I We need to stop overpaying some and look to what will better serve our students. Throwing more money into a education system that doesn't prepare students for the real world is stupid! The last time there was a tax hike, the superintendent and many of his staff, got nice BIG RAISES! You said they same things last. Shame on you, all you want to do is cry poor, so you can line your own pocket with our money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oak Lawn Lifer July 26, 2012 at 04:54 PM
It's a shame after double dipping ...that 229 blew All the referendum cash from 4-5 years ago AND all the bond money they pulled AFTER the referendum passed...obviously they have NOT been spending wisely.... They will never pass a referendum and I can only HOPE they bonding authority is pretty much used up so they can't pull another back door referendum. You made the bed....now lay in it !!!
oaklawndad August 08, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Maybe this will explain some of the problems http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/14298715-522/top-paid-teachers-blue-collar-suburbs-offer-blue-chip-pay.html
Concerned Oak Lawn Resident August 14, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Who eliminated the position of Principal at OLCHS yet assumed the role himself on top of his existing position as Superintendent and simply paid himself the extra salary associated to the role. Does a single school in one district community even need a Superintendent? This at the same time his teaching staff was asked (and agreed) to take an overall 6% cut from their already approved contract when in March of 2011 teachers voted 146-29 to take raises of 4% and 6% over the next two years. Your entire staff agreed to a pay-cut rather than lay-offs, increase classroom size and over-tax the remaining staff at OLCHS (which would have adversely affected the education of the 1,800 students attending OLCHS) Where’s your pay-cut Mr. Principal/District Superintendent? So don’t simply and blindly assume that the salaries of the teaching staff are to blame. When you cut from the bottom up in education all you succeed in accomplishing is penalizing the students (which ARE your ENTIRE reason for existing). We won’t fix this by cutting teacher salaries and hiring new, cheaper educators straight from college, shortened school days or lowering credit hours for graduation. Fix this from the top down. Who holds two positions in one school and within a one district community? Who assigned himself the two combined salaries? Who requested and was awarded $7,270 in unused vacation? Whos salary in a single year could reduce the now required bond by almost half? Blame the man driving the bus

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