The Oswego School District Board of Education has voted to implement additional budget cuts and fee hikes worth $1.4 million in the event voters reject the district's April 2 operating fund referendum.
The board approved the cuts and fee hikes in a 4-0 ballot during a special meeting Thursday, March 21 at Oswego East High School. Board members Matt Bauman, Brent Lightfoot and Toni Morgan were absent from the meeting.
The district is seeking to pass the referendum to generate an additional $5.6 million to $5.7 million in new revenues annually to offset a deficit budget. If voters approve, district officials estimate the referendum will cost the owner of a home valued at $200,000 an additional $182 annually, while the owner of a home valued at $250,000 would pay an extra $232. The tax bill for a $300,000 home would increase by $282.
Among the cuts approved by the board are: hiking full day kindergarten fees from $300 to $550 per year; shifting junior high school athletics from a competitive to an intramural program; imposing a 10 percent reduction in the non-stipend related high school athletic budgets; and cutting the total number of work days for the district's 12 month Oswego Educational Support Professional Association (OESPA) staff by two days.
The complete list is available on the Board of Education's BoardDocs webpage, accessible through the district's website.
The cuts and fee hikes are in addition to $14 million in cost-cutting done by the board over the past four years, according to information provided by the district.
Board President Brad Banks reminded the audience and board members the cuts approved at Thursday's meeting will only go into effect if the referendum fails. If the referendum is passed by voters, the board has also approved a list of roll backs to cuts and fee hikes, valued at $1.16 million.
If the referendum fails, Superintendent Dr. John Sparlin said, the discussion of budget cuts and fee increases will continue, though the cuts that have been provided this year should result in a balanced budget for the next fiscal year.
"For us to get to a balanced budget for the 19-20 school year if the referendum doesn't pass, we will need to talk about what we talked about at our last meeting," Sparlin said, referencing a conversation at the board's March 18 meeting regarding the possibility of cuts and increases made to extracurricular programs. "The decisions that we have made thus far, and the decisions such as this one tonight, and decisions that will come after this evening, if the referendum were not to pass, will be tougher decisions than what we've done over the past three-and-a-half years."
"This is painful," Board Secretary Jared Ploger said, when discussing the possible change to junior high athletics.
Ploger questioned why junior high athletics were looked at, as opposed to all extracurriculars at that grade level; a move Sparlin said related to the dollar value the board was looking to reach.
Ploger encouraged the board and administration to seek "the pulse" of the district's junior high schools, to gauge the effect it would have on students and teachers.
"Our community has to make a decision...we the community will have to own it," he said.
The mood was somber, as the board examined the list. Vice President Lauri Doyle thanked district administrators for their work in creating the list presented on Thursday, but, "It doesn't make me like any of this better," she said. "It still looks terrible. But I appreciate the work that went into it."
Silence reigned for a moment, after the vote was taken, broken by Doyle.
"That sucked," she said.