D97 won't make staff reductions this year

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The District 97 Board of Education will not reduce staff positions for next fall, the first time in three years it has not made staff cuts.

The board cut positions as part of a multi-million-dollar belt-tightening drive to rein in expenses after a January 2003 Finance Task Force report instructed the board to cut $7.5 million over three years before asking voters for a referendum.

New revenues and fund balances in excess of $27 million (in 2003) staved off the need for a referendum.

Although no budget decisions were made at the board's Feb. 9 meeting, board members said it was appropriate to "take a breather," in the words of President Ade Onayemi, in making staff reductions.

Budget projections for 2005-06 show a $1.3 million deficit in the Education Fund. That amount was reduced from a would-be $2 million deficit by money promised by the Village of Oak Park to help fund diversity programs?#34;busing and multicultural education?#34;at the district.

Board member Sharon Patchak-Layman questioned whether the board should be pushing harder to close the district's deficit.

Other board members said that taking a break from making major cuts was appropriate because it would give the district time to assess prior cuts and allow for the incoming superintendent to be involved in making major budget decisions.

Supt. John Fagan said the Finance Task Force did not tell the board to balance the budget "no matter what," but rather to use fund balances to cushion the impact of cuts.

"This is a good time to look at things...without doing anything wild and crazy," Fagan said.

Village Trustee Ray Johnson said he had not seen any Dist. 97 budget projections, but that village funding was intended to give the district "some breathing room."
?#34;Drew Carter

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