Effingham Unit 40 School Board adopted a fiscal reduction plan Monday evening designed to recoup the loss of $1.3 million in federal and state aid from the district’s budget.

The plan includes the closing of East Side Preschool building beginning this summer. Current East Side programs will move to West Side School, and West Side’s first and second grades will move to South Side School. Superintendent Dan Clasby said East Side will either be rented or demolished.

The district has lost $800,000 in federal Medicaid money and $500,000 from state payments due to an unexpected enrollment drop of 90 students, Clasby said.

“Our ability to stream revenue is being severely limited,” he said, adding the reductions are necessary for the district to balance the budget.

Some of the items in the plan have already been approved by the board, including switching the district’s preschool program from full-day to a half-day program beginning in the 2009-10 school year and replacing the Nova Net Program with the cheaper Odessey Ware Program.

New items in the plan include:

• Conduct reduction in force for both certified and noncertified staff in winter 2009, which will be effective for the respective contract year of 2009-10.

• Administrative positions and duties will be adjusted for the 2009-10 school year.

• All summer school programs will have a tuition charge beginning June 2009.

• All operating grants or those programs initiated with grant funds will not be additionally subsidized by district funding.

• Iowa testing will be discontinued beginning with the 2008-09 school year.

• Adopt the co-curricular changes as presented by the secondary administration for the 2009-10 year.

The district also offered an early retirement option to certified staff who declared their intention to retire by Dec. 15. Staff had to turn in an irrevocable letter of retirement. In return, the staff will receive a 6 percent raise on their final years of service before retirement, with a $15,000 cap.

Since teachers’ retirement funds are based on 75 percent of the average of their four highest salaries in the last 10 years of service, the raises will help them earn more money for retirement than a standard bonus. If any of the $15,000 is left over after the raises, the staff will receive the remainder as a bonus after they retire.

An early retirement plan also will be offered to noncertified staff who participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.

“Barring any other unforeseen issues, this will balance things and keep the district fiscally sound for the next few years,” Clasby said, adding he is concerned about the effect Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s situation will have on payments to the district.

“One concern I have is that the governor’s office is under siege. What that means for education is it will slow things down for us,” he said.

During his financial report, Unit 40 Business Manager Dean Keller confirmed the superintendent’s concerns, reporting the state owes the district $765,913.67 in back payment from September, October, November and December.

The money is owed from different funds, including funding for children requiring special education, early childhood block grant, transportation, state free lunch and breakfast, reading improvement block grant and safety and education block grant.

Twenty people took advantage of the early retirement option. Those who will retire at the end of the 2008-09 school year include Janie Collins, eighth-grade reading and language arts teacher; Debbie Harris, sixth-grade science/fine arts teacher; Carolyn Lambert, second-grade teacher at West Side School; and Carol Margerum, Effingham High School math teacher.

Retiring at the end of the 2009-10 school year are Joan Kern, South Side cross-categorical teacher; David Watkins, EHS social studies teacher; and Robin Klosterman, EHS technical integration specialist. Retiring at the end of 2010-11 are Michael Antonacci, sixth-grade social studies teacher, and Deanne Rodgers, South Side second-grade teacher.

Retiring at the end of the 2011-12 school year are junior high teacher LoElla Baker, first-grade teacher Barbara Beck, third-grade teacher Margaret Borries, EHS teacher Ellen Claerbout, fourth-grade teacher Sharon Knaus, third-grade teacher Carol Probst, second-grade teacher Susan Pruemer, fifth-grade teachers Judy Smithenry and Rita Toops, Spanish teacher Tracy Tuman, and Kindergarten teacher Kathleen Wormhoudt.

Angie Faller can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 131 or angie.faller@effinghamdailynews.com.

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