Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 14, 2013

Staff cuts ahead for Altamont School District

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT — Altamont schools will be making staff cuts as a continued lack of state aid makes an impact on their budget for the next school year.

"We did a little over $370,000 in reductions last night," said Superintendent Jeff Fritchtnitch on the school board's meeting earlier this week. "We took recommendations from an ad hoc fiance committee that had been working on this since October and took a look at what we could do to at least recap the $300,000 we didn't get last year."

Fritchtnitch said although the cuts made at the board's meeting should balance the budget, major cuts to the education, transportation and operations and maintenance funds were or are soon going to be made to prepare for possible further reductions of state funding.

The board voted to cut several extracurricular activities, including fall baseball, sixth grade basketball, cross country and summer band for next school year.

Also, the junior high will drop to a seven-period schedule, which will allow the district to eliminate two full-time teaching positions, as well as six full-time certified positions. The district will not fill two positions vacated by retirements and will reduce the hours of grade school art and music, as well as reduce a full-time industrial tech teaching position to half time.

Fritchtnitch said the cuts will not significantly impact class sizes throughout the district.

"We may see an increase of three to five students," he said. "I guess we're fortunate in that respect. We looked at that as a board going forward."

Fritchtnitch said the board does not yet have a plan to reduce spending on transportation, but plans to cut $30,000 from that fund, along with $50,000 from building maintenance. The cuts are in addition to the more than $300,000 that has already been cut.

"We're working on doing a reduction plan, and we'll do it over the course of time," he said.

Fritchtnitch is unsure how the district will make up for continual cuts in transportation funding even though the district transports 85 percent of its students. The district also will have to balance needs in operations and maintenance.

"We're going to look at what we have and where we're at and have to keep in mind what we want to have and what we need to have," he said.

While many of the board's action items dealt with the 2013-2014 budget, the board also approved a new class for high school students focused on current events.

The class will focus on students presenting and understanding recent news items and will be entirely graded on student projects.

"Students are busier than ever," Fritchtnitch said. "When they get online they're not getting on Yahoo news, CNN or MSNBC. They're getting on Facebook. With this class, they're getting what's going on."

The board also approved renewing the athletic co-op agreement with Altamont Lutheran Interparish School for junior high boys and girls track and field through the 2014-2015 school year.

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com.