Delavan-Darien School District makes staff cuts to balance budget

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Monday, April 14, 2014

DELAVAN—A failed referendum will mean the loss of 17.5 positions in the Delavan-Darien School District.

Of those, six are retirements or resignations, and those positions will not be refilled. The loss of the remaining 11.5 positions will mean the non-renewal of teacher contracts.

At Monday’s Delavan-Darien School Board meeting, board members voted unanimously to make those cuts—and several others—to make up a $2.1 million budget deficit.

The staff cuts will save the district more than $500,000.

The decision was made nearly two weeks after a referendum to exceed the revenue cap by $2.1 million failed by 1,727 to 1,163.

Along with the cuts, the board discussed going to referendum again, perhaps in August. That decision was put off until the May meeting.

The meeting, which was attended by about 160 people, was marked by passionate speeches by board members and local residents.

 Five residents spoke before the meeting.

George Kirkpatrick said he had voted against the referendum, and said he wasn’t happy that he might be voting on another one in August.

“I have to ask the board, ‘What part of no don’t you understand,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick noted that the referendum was soundly defeated.

“60 percent isn’t squeaker,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s not advisable, it’s not prudent, to take it back to the people.”

Parent Bernice Solis said she supported the April 1 referendum.

“Often times we spend a lot of money on things and it’s not an investment in anything,” Solis said. “This is an investment in our kids, and it’s extremely important.”

Board member Chad Kort noted that when the referendum first came up, he made the comment that “throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.”

“People talk about cutting the fluff—I’d like to see what that fluff is,” Kort said. “Even if we cut all of our extra curricular, that wouldn’t even come close. Salaries make up 85 percent of our costs.”

Board member Joe Peyer said that he and many of his fellow board members were elected to make changes to the district.

Peyer said he didn’t want the job on the school board, but “about 50” teachers approached him and wanted him to run.

The job has turned out to be more complicated than he expected.

“Business tactics don’t work in schools,” Peyer said.

He noted that his taxes were about $5,000 and yet his property values “were in the crapper.”

A good school system was crucial to bringing people into the community and keeping them here.

“Without strong schools, we don’t have a strong community,” Peyer said.

Other cuts and changes made to balance the budget include:

--Borrowing $1 million at a low interest rate from the state trust fund. No interest is charged on the money unless it is used. The money could be used to help carry the district if a future referendum fails to pass.

--The rest of the cuts will come from distance learning, $40,000; phones, $50,000; utilities, $20,000; and equipment, $250,000.

--$204,000 in health insurance premium shares from employees. The system will change the retirement benefits.

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