Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

March 19, 2014

Neoga schools face 'revenue problem'

Half time possible for electives, arts teachers

NEOGA — Neoga School Board President Tina Moore told a crowd of about 100 Wednesday cuts are inevitable.

"We are looking at the future, and the future includes the bottom line," she said.

With only two weeks until teachers need to be notified of impending staff cuts, Neoga School Board held a public hearing to let the community know what impact may be coming for staff and students throughout the district.

At the hearing, Moore said the impact of proration to general state aid — currently at 89 percent this year and estimated at 87 percent or less next year — as well as decreased enrollment throughout the district has led to an increasingly tight financial situation for the schools. She said recent predictions place the school with more than $300,000 in the Education Fund balance at the end of this school year and a $11,000 deficit in the 2014-15 school year — a deficit that will grow to $455,000 at the end of the 2015-16 school year. The Education Fund pays for expenses, such as teacher's salaries.

"We do not have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem," Moore said.

The district plans to deal with the expected decrease in general state aid by making more than $277,000 in cuts for next school year. Those cuts would include reducing a Spanish teacher and a family and consumer science teacher to half time, reducing Kindergarten and first grade to two sections, and eliminating summer school at the middle school and the accelerated reader program.

The district also is considering additional cuts that would save an estimated $108,000 by reducing art, music and band teachers to half time, eliminating a class aid and adding stipends for clubs.

Moore said further work is expected to be made in order to share the financial burden many rural districts are facing. She said Neoga may look for more cooperative agreements with Stewardson-Strasburg and other school districts.

"The board is looking for opportunities to work with our neighbors to maintain programs for our students," she said.

Several members of the audience spoke about long-term solutions to keep costs low and fixing any financial issues the district faces. Moore said options such as consolidating classes to fewer buildings to compensate for having empty rooms at the elementary school are not financially viable for the district, because facilities in the elementary school are older than the ones in the middle school.

The issue of a possible consolidation of the entire district was also broached by several audience members as the district's long-term plans did not include ways to escape from deficit spending in the next two years. Moore said she did not believe the community had expressed an interest in consolidation talks.

"When is the community ready to talk consolidation?" she said. "I'm not hearing them say 'let's talk consolidation.' I'm not hearing that. I haven't gotten the feeling that the community wants that yet."

Moore said she wanted to praise the work the Boosters Club has done, as well as the work the PTO has done in helping the district over the past year and encouraged the community to call legislators to speak about the direct impact the proration has had on students. More importantly, she told the community to stay positive about the situation moving forward as difficult decisions are made.

"Choose to be a positive force," she said. "It's going to be really easy to be caught up in a lot of the negative stuff, and that's not going to serve anybody well, and it's not going to serve our students well. I know you don't like this. I don't like this."

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

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