Following through on what they said they would do if a tax referendum failed, the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 board last week approved fee increases and eliminated 77 stipends for positions in athletics and other extracurricular activities -moves that will save the cash-strapped district nearly $400,000.
“We told the public that if the referendum didn’t pass these were the cuts that we were going to make to try and live within our means,” said District 208 school board President Matt Sinde. “Do I like cutting? No, but I also know that we have to live within our means.”
The school board also unanimously voted to institute a pay-to-participate program for sports.
The school board also voted 6 to 1 to raise the school’s basic registration fee from $165 to $190, an increase of about 15 percent.
The pay-to-participate plan is anticipated to raise about $66,640 while the increase in the registration fee is expected to add $30,825, meaning about $97,400 in increased revenue to the district.
Students from low-income families who qualify for the federal free lunch program will have their fees waived as required by state law.
The board also trimmed $161,811 from the athletic department budget by cutting 21 assistant coaching positions and eliminating stipends for assistant athletic directors and one trainer. The department also had its supply budget cut.
For non-athletic activities, the board cut $127,754 by eliminating 50 stipend positions and other savings associated with activities that have been axed.
In all RBHS has now cut 77 stipend positions, which will save the district $267,023.
Both the fall play and the spring musical were eliminated as was forensics, the math team, the Madrigal Singers, Repertory Dance Club and foreign language clubs to name just some of the activities that will not be offered at the school next year.
It is possible that some of those activities could be brought back as the school works to develop a policy regarding outside funding of school activities. Some parents have said that they would raise the money necessary to preserve certain activities, such as the math team.
Sinde said that the board will be discussing a policy concerning outside funding of school activities at its August meeting.
Not all clubs were eliminated. The Ecology Club was saved by a 5 to 2 vote of the school board. Other activities and clubs were not on the chopping block. Among the clubs and activities at RBHS that will still be around when school begins next month are the student newspaper, the Best Buddies Club, the Model U.N., the chess club, the Hip Hop Dance Team, the Special Olympics and Ultimate Frisbee to name a few.
RBHS officials have said they tried to preserve activities that did not have a direct counterpart in the curriculum. For example, since students can still take foreign language classes it was decided to eliminate the foreign language clubs.
Senior Jacob Palka has appeared in many RBHS theatrical productions. He was looking forward to perhaps having a starring role his senior year. Now he won’t have that chance with the elimination of the fall play and spring musical.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed that we don’t get to do that this year,” said Palka, who sat through last week’s school board meeting. “With theater you kind of work your way to the top to a good role, and this year there is nothing.”
Palka said that that school theatrical productions have involved more than just the actors.
“It involves a great number of different areas of our school,” Palka said. “Theater kids, band kids, all our technical [people], lighting, sound. Art Department does posters, help paint the sets.”
Board member Laura Hruska cast the only vote against raising the basic registration fee. She said that school clubs took a bigger hit than the athletic department. She wanted the registration fee, officially called the “registration and co-curricular fee,” to support clubs.
“I think the cuts are unfair,” Hruska said. “All the sports remain intact. The clubs have taken a disproportionate [hit].”
Hruska and Garry Gryczan voted against the assistant coaching cuts in which every sport lost one assistant position with the exception of football which lost two coaching positions.
Hruska said that she voted against the proposal, because she thought there should have been deeper cuts in the athletic department. Gryczan declined to comment when asked why he voted against the motion cutting the assistant coaching positions.
On pay-to-participate the board and administration switched course. Last year the administration said that if the referendum failed it would recommend a pay-to-participate plan for sports that would charge $100 for the first sport and $50 for subsequent sports, with a yearly cap of $150 per student and $200 per family.
But at a June committee of the whole meeting, Sinde floated the idea of charging a flat fee of $50 per sport. That led the administration to consider imposing a flat fee per sport without any caps. They ran the numbers and determined that Sinde’s $50 a sport plan would raise $44,440, while the old administration plan was estimated to generate $64,520, and a flat fee of $75 would raise $66,660.
Principal Pamela Bylsma recommended the flat fee of $75 per sport, saying that a flat fee per sport would be much easier to administer.
Total personnel cuts at RBHS since April will save the school $1,640,093.05.
The teaching staff previously was cut by 11.6 full-time equivalent positions for the 2011-22 school year to save $914,115.50. Non-certified staff were cut by $328,762.55.