Last week Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis spoke at Parent Teacher Organization meetings at S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield and R.J. Hauser Junior High School in Riverside to outline the difficult budget decisions that the school faces next year.
Skinkis said that the district hopes to cut about $1.8 million from its budget next year as it tries to balance its budget. Balancing the budget will require painful cuts, Skinkis said.
“I’m not standing in front of you tonight with a magic solution,” said Skinkis on Jan.19 at Hauser. “There is no good solution. No matter what you do cutting the budget, somebody is going to lose. You can’t cut a budget without impacting the culture of a high school.”
Skinkis said that one option being considered is limiting the number of courses students can take and reducing graduation requirements. Currently, many RBHS students take more classes than they need to graduate. Limiting the number of classes a student can take might allow District 208 to cut back on staff.
Other cost cutting moves being considered are eliminating some athletic teams and getting rid of the no cut policy in some sports. “We have to seriously think of the possibility of eliminating some sports,” Skinkis said.
The school could eliminate the school receptionist position. Instead of having phone calls answered by a friendly human voice, calls to the school would go directly into an automated phone system.
Skinkis said that another possibility is cutting the amount the district pays to its outside contractor for cleaning services.
Raising the fees the district charges outside groups to rent RBHS facilities is another option. The district already raised rental fees for the 2011-12 school year. Keeping the school building open only four days a week during the summer is another option, Skinkis said.
Charging pay-to-participate fees for clubs is being considered to raise money and possibly restore some clubs that were cut this year. Increasing the general registration fee, which was increased this year, also is on the table.
But Skinkis said that it would be impossible to balance the budget at RBHS simply by raising fees.
“There is no easy solution to this,” Skinkis said. “The revenue enhancements we’re looking at would only be a drop in the bucket.”
Questions from parents at the Hauser meeting focused on where cuts would be made. One parent worried that auto shop and woodshop courses might be eliminated.
The school board recently adopted a policy not to run classes with fewer than 20 students unless the school board grants a special waiver.
Skinkis said that administrators wouldn’t know until February how many students have signed up for specific courses for 2012-13. Once that information becomes available, administrators will decide which courses to offer next year and figure out next year’s staffing requirements.
Some parents urged Skinkis to cut frills and focus on core academics.
“I really don’t want to see academics being cut and class sizes increased,” said Karen Doornebos.
Skinkis gave out an email address – BudgetFeedback2012firstname.lastname@example.org – and urged community members to offer suggestions or ask questions.
Skinkis said that he thought the meetings went well.
“To be talking about somewhat of a depressing topic, I thought it went fairly well,” Skinkis said. “I thought those that attended were receptive to what we were trying to do, and that was to inform and educate people in the community as to how the budget process works.
“I think we got some feedback from parents and attendees for some areas to look at.”
Skinkis will give another presentation to district parents at Komarek School, 8940 24th St. in North Riverside, on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.