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$6.4 million Dist. 300 proposal includes 40 layoffs
By Jameel Naqvi | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/12/2010 12:01 AM

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For the second time in as many years, Community Unit District 300 administrators on Monday unveiled millions of dollars in proposed reductions to cope with delayed state payments they fear may never arrive.

Superintendent Ken Arndt has proposed $6.4 million in cuts for the 2010-11 school year, including layoffs, furlough days and the elimination of physical education and music for kindergartners.

Among the most notable cuts proposed are almost 40 staff reductions, seven summer furlough days for year-round staff, reducing rates for long-term substitute teachers and deferring technology upgrades.

Also on the table but not part of the formal proposal, according to the district, are a salary freeze and an increase in the amount employees must contribute toward their insurance benefits.

"We're willing to look at all and any options from now to Feb. 22," Arndt said Monday.

Board President Joe Stevens encouraged residents to contact the board and district staff with ideas and feedback on the proposed cuts.

"We need your input and your guidance," Stevens said. "I get very distressed when we make big decisions like this and we get so little public feedback."

The proposed reductions, coming one year after the board cut $2 million from its current-year budget, reflect the state's worsening budget crisis.

District officials say the state has yet to deliver $6 million it owes the district this year, forcing the district to take out millions in short-term loans to meet payroll.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to address the state's backlog of bills, but Comptroller Dan Hynes, his Democratic primary opponent, has opposed that plan so far.

The bulk of District 300's proposed reductions will depend on upcoming negotiations with the unions that represent district teachers, secretaries, custodians and administrative staff.

Although bargaining sessions aren't scheduled to begin until February, district leaders are hoping to resolve budget-related issues with the unions by a state-mandated March deadline to notify staff of layoffs.

The board plans to vote on the reductions on Feb. 22.

Cuts: Reductions are result of late payments from state