Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 13, 2013

Unit 30 school board makes cuts, sets fees

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

DIETERICH — While Dieterich may not have the dire financial issues other area districts do, Unit 30 Board of Education still needed to make cuts Monday to ensure it doesn't in the future.

The board agreed to cut about $200,000 from the 2013-14 budget, by either cutting various budget items or raising fees, even though board President Mike Winters said the school district had plenty of reserve funding to avoid Monday's action - on paper.

Winters said the board felt like it had to take some action in light of projected decreases in per capita general aid and state transportation reimbursement.

"Previous boards had been able to build up the surplus over many years," Winters said. "But we had a $500,000 deficit this year, and it will be worse next year.

"We felt like we had to act."

Winters said the district had $4 million in reserves going into this year, divided into several funds. With laws prohibiting unrestricted transfer between funds, however, the board decided it would be best to pass some budget adjustments for the 2013-14 school year.

Most notably, the board voted to reduce four teaching positions to half-time. The affected subjects are art, band, family and consumer sciences, business, physical education and health.

While art teacher Janet Nisbett is retiring, the board still had to cut the positions currently occupied by band director Kelly Davis, family and consumer science teacher Haley Brown, and business/P.E./ health teacher Donetta Ohnesorge from full to half-time.

Winters said cutting those positions was the hardest decision facing the board.

"The decision that affected three of our teachers was the toughest," he said.

The board also agreed to shift the cost of a school nurse to students. At $15 per student, the district will save about $5,000. Dieterich contracts with the Effingham County Health Department for nursing services.

Also Monday, the board agreed to restructure athletic fees to impose a per sport fee, enacted a field trip fee of $5 per student to offset transportation costs and restructured long-term substitute teacher compensation.

The board agreed to eliminate its annual conference trip to Chicago, overnight administrative conferences, the sixth grade basketball program and all athletic transportation.

The board also signed off on a voluntary salary freeze for administrators.

Superintendent Cary Jackson praised the board for its diligence during the process.

"There were a lot of tough decisions they had to make," Jackson said. "But they maintained a good focus and came to some responsible decisions."

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.