District 203 considers options to cut $1 million from budget

A group of student athletes speaks in support of the school’s swimming and lacrosse programs before the
District 203 Board of Education. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – It was a packed house for the monthly District 203 Board of Education meeting, as many were on hand to hear about proposed budget cuts for the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Darcy Benway began the meeting with a presentation where she outlined the district’s finances and how they have gotten into a position where they are having to make cuts totaling $1 million for the 2017-18 school year.

“We have three sources of revenues. Property taxes from the residents, funding from the state, and federal dollars. Back in 2008, we were receiving $1.2 million more than we did in 2016,” Benway said.

She went on to explain that the housing crisis impacted the amount of local revenue the district received and that the inaction by the state legislature has impacted their state funding.

Benway also said the cost of teaching a student hasn’t decreased at all since 2008.

“We all know it doesn’t cost less to educate a child today than in 2008. Our expenditures have gone up $1.6 million. Where has that happened? Primarily in instruction, which makes sense. That’s what we’re all about. We’re about educating kids and providing opportunities for kids,” Benway said.

Benway also explained that another major expense for the district are unfunded state mandates that the district must abide by.

In order to give proper context, Benway outlined a series of more than $4 million in financial cuts the board of education has made in previous budget years, but she said the district’s financial situation has gotten worse to the point they need to make more dramatic cuts. Despite having to make $1 million in cuts for the next school year, District 203 will still have $1.7 million of deficit spending. The district will be able to use reserves to make up that deficit, but Benway says the district can’t keep spending down reserves.

Benway emphasized that no decisions have been made as to what will be done to cut the $1 million at this time. She did outline a series of cuts that are being considered. Those cuts include:

  • Personnel reductions between six and seven percent.
  • Administrative reductions between nine and ten percent.
  • A reduction in guidance services through a cut of counsellors.
  • Reductions in non-certified staff positions
  • Salary freezes
  • Reductions in operating budgets
  • Reductions in district paid professional development
  • The elimination of the boys and girls lacrosse programs
  • The elimination of the boys and girls swimming programs

“If the district takes no action, we will run out of operating cash sometime in the 2020-2021 school year,” Benway said. “We need your help solving this problem. This $1 million is just for this year. It’s just the start and we need your help.”

Following Benway’s presentation the floor was opened up for public comment. For nearly 90 minutes, coaches, players, parents, boosters, and community members spoke on behalf of the swimming and lacrosse teams.

To view the entire presentation and school board meeting, please visit the O’Fallon Weekly on Facebook.