School to cut $1M, close school

Urbana will also implement transportation fees.

Urbana school board members approved $1 million in cuts last week, including a plan to close Local Intermediate school, to narrow a projected budget deficit.

If voters reject a renewal levy on the ballot in May, board members already have decided millions more in cuts are on the way.

The district had considered eliminating a handful of teaching positions, but those cuts may not be necessary due to recent retirements, said Charles Thiel, superintendent for the district.

Closing Local Intermediate will mean moving that school’s kindergarten and first-grade classes to North Elementary, moving second- and third-grade classes to South Elementary and moving fourth- and fifth-grade classes to East Elementary. Sixth-grade students will be moved to the junior high school.

District officials have said closing Local Intermediate could save the district as much as $200,000 per year. The money saved by not filling several teaching positions is estimated at about $308,000.

Other cuts approved by the board include:

• Eliminating two administrative staff positions, including a district elementary principal position, to save $92,000.

• Reducing hours for classified staff, including library aides and leaving one position open to save $114,000.

• Eliminating numerous supplemental contracts, including extra-curricular activity and department chair positions, to save $126,500.

• Eliminating two bus aide positions, consolidating bus routes and instituting an extra-curricular activity fee to save $80,000.

• Eliminating field trips and reducing building budgets by 25 percent to save $33,000.

The district will require students who participate in sports to pay a one-time, $100 transportation fee. Once paid, that fee will help cover transportation costs to sporting events and will allow students to play as many sports as they wish without additional fees.

The cuts came after voters rejected a proposed 5.5-mill levy last fall that would have raised about $1.3 million annually for the district. The five-year forecast showed a projected budget deficit without the cuts, which had to be made by the end of this year, Thiel said.

This spring, voters will decide on a 9.75-mill renewal levy that was originally approved in 2008. That levy costs residents about $26 a month for the owner of a $100,000 home and is used for day-to-day operations such as utilities, salaries and transportation. If voters reject that levy, the district would be faced with an additional $2.4 million in cuts, on top of the $1 million the board approved this week.

If that levy fails, Thiel said the board has decided to cut all athletics and extracurricular activities and reduce busing to state minimum levels. That would mean only students in grades K through 8 living outside a two-mile radius from their school would receive busing. There would be no high school transportation.

Thiel said it’s still not clear how much state funding the district will receive next year, but that information will help board members decide whether to seek a new levy again this fall.

“We hope by the time we have to make a decision about our levy in the fall, we’ll know what our budget is,” Thiel said.

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