Oak Park and River Forest High School estimates its new two-year faculty contract will save the school an estimated $2.7 million against previous financial projections.

But the school is looking further into the future to cut costs and rein in expenditures as it anticipates a sharp rise in student enrollment in coming years. The high school board voted recently to cut spending by each year starting with a one percent reduction for the next school year and cutting by a lesser percentage each year through 2022. The school projects expenses will begin to outpace revenues by 2015, thus necessitating the need for long-term cost-cutting.

Enrollment projections show a trend toward 3,800-plus students by the end of the decade. That would be up sharply from the roughly 3,000 students currently enrolled. Officials note an increase in students means an increase in teachers, resulting in added salaries and benefits.

“The idea in this case is to target an annual percentage in regards to savings for the 2013 year, the year that we are right now currently looking into the budget process,” said Supt. Steven Isoye, in his presentation to the school board on Jan. 19. The board adopted the new enrollment model in a 5-2 vote, with Sharon Patchak-Layman and Ralph Lee voting against the measure.

The recommendation calls for 1 percent in overall “targeted annual savings” in 2013. That would translate into roughly $594,000. The following year the target would be to cut costs by 0.75 percent and then cut 0.5 percent annually from 2015-22.

By 2016, the school estimates a cumulative savings of nearly $5 million. The recommendation was put together by an advisory leadership team (ALT) led by the superintendent and including staff and community volunteers.

Lee, however, voted against the recommendation, arguing for a larger percent in savings per year. The recommendations did not include specifics cuts, another concern of Lee’s in voting against the measure. Isoye explained that the targeted savings were modest but reasonable when looking long-term.

“It would be to look at saving 1 percent of what the projected expenditures would be. I think that’s important,” he said. “There’s an expected expenditure that we have, based on the model, and we are saying that we are going to aim for 1 percent less of what that expected expenditure is.”

Isoye added that the school can only squeeze so much out of the budget while also looking for “continuous” annual savings. As for specific cuts, Isoye stressed that those conversations will take place with the board and community, but that recommendations were a starting point.

“We’re saying that as we understand that it’ll get harder and harder to find some of these things for savings…knowing that logic, we landed on what we thought was reasonable enough and we will evaluate it on an annual basis.”

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