The Palestine Unit 3 school board is preparing to make as much as $582,000 in cuts to personnel and activities for next year, and has approved borrowing $800,000 to pay expenses for this year.
For the past few months, the board has been reviewing the continued effect of reduced and late state-aid payments on the district. To remain fiscally sound, the board is looking at making honorable reductions in force at the March meeting. Before doing that, by law the board must schedule a public hearing.
According to Superintendent Joe Sornberger, whenever the number of honorable dismissal notices based on economic necessity exceeds five, or 150 percent of the average number of teachers honorably dismissed in the preceding three years, whichever is greater, the school board must hold a hearing and review. The action to approve any such reduction in staff requires a majority vote of the board.
At a special public informational meeting Feb. 13, Sornberger presented his recommendation to the board. The proposed cuts included the following positions; one elementary teacher, a social studies teacher, a special-education teacher, a math teacher, a physical education teacher, an English teacher, and the band and music teaching positions. As staff retire over the next two years, business and art positions and an additional elementary teacher position would not be filled.
Extracurricular activities recommended for cutting include junior-high baseball, softball, track and scholastic bowl. At the high-school, cuts would include golf, scholastic bowl and track. It was further recommended that junior-high girls' basketball, junior-high boys' basketball, fifth and sixth-grade basketball, high-school football and girls' basketball also be cut if they cannot be funded.
The board Tuesday night set the date and time of the public hearing for Monday, March 4, at 6 p.m. at the grade school.
In other business, the board approved borrowing up to $800,000 in tax anticipation warrants for the district. The money would be secured by anticipated tax revenue, but would most likely be repaid by late payments from the state.
The board also authorized the superintendent to seek bids for fuel, but suggested waiting a month or so to see what prices do.
The transfer of $12,000 from the Working Cash fund to the Transportation Fund was approved.
The board also approved a contract with Chicago Tek Kids, a supplemental education service, to tutor low-income children in grades K-5, after school.
The tutoring is mandated as part of No Child Left Behind, when a district fails to make Adequate Yearly Progress three years in a row. Because of the ever-increasing level of requirements to meet AYP, Palestine has failed to do so, and must contract for tutoring outside the district. The money for the tutoring will come from the federal Title I funds.
The next scheduled regular meeting has been changed, and will now be Thursday, March 21, at 6 p.m. at the grade school.