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New budget proposal makes Dist. 204 board members uneasy
By Justin Kmitch | Daily Herald Staff

Cathy Piehl

 

Dawn DeSart

 

Christine Vickers

 

Curt Bradshaw

 

 1 of 4 
 
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Published: 3/11/201 6:09 PM | Updated: 3/11/2010 6:34 PM

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School board members won't vote until March 22 on the budget proposal unveiled Thursday by Indian Prairie Unit District 204 administrators, but several already are weighing in.

Lost sleep, indigestion and broken hearts are some of the side effects they say they've endured while contemplating cutting 145 nontenured teachers, laying off 19 administrators and enacting pay freezes and increased class sizes to trim what will be a combined $21.4 million from next year's projected $288 million budget.

"We don't find any part of this process enjoyable. The governor dealt us a bad hand and our only choice is to play with what we are given," board President Curt Bradshaw said. "We already receive and spend 20 percent less per student than our peers, so cutting more is difficult. However, we owe it to our taxpayers to live within our means just as they are striving to do."

Dawn DeSart said she has been kept awake at night, feeling her stomach turn, unable to get budget-related thoughts out of her head.

Christine Vickers said her heart is continuously broken when she's forced to realize the importance finances play in the board's decision-making progress.

Cathy Piehl is left hoping for a miracle before the proposal actually gets to the board.

But they all agree the proposal is not a done deal until the board approves it - and some members think there's more work to be done before they sign off on the recommendation.

"It's possible that we go ahead just as the administration is planning or it's possible things may change. I have no idea. But I know it will be very upsetting," Piehl said. "I hope there are some positives to come from all this one day down the road. That's what I'm hoping for."

DeSart said she already has a few recommendations that have been shot down by her colleagues but she intends to keep fighting in the hopes her suggestions could spare some, if not all, of the proposed job cuts. She said she has proposed wage reductions for administrators, furlough days for all employees and several other plans but has received little support.

"I would love to see the administration's salaries rolled back 2 or 3 percent instead of being frozen and I would like us to pay less of their benefit package," she said. " I think it would go a long way in the community if they showed they're willing to take a small hit in their personal income to benefit our children."

Vickers said she hopes the two unions currently negotiating for new contracts - including the teachers - also keep in mind the stark realities of the budget proposal.

"Difficult times bring difficult measures and in this situation everyone has to give something and it has to be fair at all levels. Everyone has to come to give something in a time of dire need," she said. "Negotiations must be realistic and the unions must understand the predicament we all face right now."

Superintendent Kathryn Birkett and her administrative team are expected to present their proposal to the board during the March 22 school board meeting.

Board members Alka Tyle, Mark Metzger and Susan Rasmus could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.