Riverside-Brookfield High School administrators have approved budget cuts that increased class sizes and eliminated maintenance projects, but operation of The Paw Cafe will continue if private funding can be found.
Board of Education members approved the $17.6 million operating budget at its regular meeting Sept. 13, a 2-percent increase in spending from last year.
The board will next meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Paw in Brookfield, to discuss saving the student-run sandwich restaurant.
The Paw, as an alternative class project begun by the school district in 2003, has lost thousands of dollars since it opened. But since news spread that the district might shutter the restaurant, students, parents and community members have voiced their support for the program, which has been a particular success with students in RB’s special education program.
With no revenue streams available, RB Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann said the district is asking two donors for money to help keep the Paw open another year. The donors wish to remain private, he said.
“We’re hoping for between $60,000 to $70,000. With that we should be able to break even,” Baldermann said. “We should know a month from now whether we’ll get the money.”
The board has formed a large subcommittee to come up with better marketing and operation plans for The Paw. The subcommittee will include board President Larry Herbst, Vice President Nancy Chmell and trustees William McCloskey and Laura Hruska, as well as representatives from the Village of Brookfield and the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce.
“They are going to brainstorm about the viability of the business and talk about strategies to get people involved,” Baldermann said. “However, if we don’t get any grant money, it will be difficult to keep it open past a month-and-a-half.”
Apart from The Paw, Baldermann said 2005-06 school budget expenses and retirement costs were higher than last year, so the district had to make numerous cuts.
The school will spend $500 less per pupil this year, he said. Also, the district could only afford to hire one more teacher, and with an increase of 100 students, class sizes will be higher than ideal, Baldermann said.
“In certain classrooms, such as foreign language and social studies, we’re in the high 20s per teacher,” he said. “In five or six science classes, we’re at higher than max capacity of 24 students per teacher.”
Another money-saving move was to buy two buses for the district. Though no students are commute to RB by bus, the district has had to pay high rental rates for field trips and off-site sports and extracurricular activities, said John Passarella, assistant principal in charge of student affairs. The buses cost about $9,000 each, but the school should save money by not having to rent.
“The sports teams have already used the buses, and we have many other requests for them,” Passarella said.
In total, the district had to cut about $450,000 in capital projects, repairs and proposed improvements, but money will still be available for emergencies, Passarella said.
The cuts were risks the district needed to make to keep up successful curriculum, Baldermann said.
“Most of our money is invested in teachers and classrooms,” he said.
Education gains are the primary goal, especially when so many other districts are not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act, Baldermann said. With good test scores and a very low dropout rate, RB is one of only a handful of schools that have met the new federal requirements each year.
Also, to save future budget cuts, the district is also expected to ask voters next year to pass a $30 million to $50 million referendum for school maintenance money. Architects Wright & Co. have been hired to create the plan.