Board shares potential impact of failed referendum

Alleigh VandeMerkt, Staff Reporter

On November 1st, a community meeting was held to discuss what would happen if the proposed April referendum does not pass. Approximately 55 parents attended the meeting.

According to Principal Pam Bylsma the effects could be more drastic than most realize. Moreover, Bylsma shared that RB is not the only school in this situation. Other surrounding schools are asking their communities to raise their property taxes.

Almost 85% of RB’s  money comes from local property taxes. On average in Illinois, only 59% of public school funding comes from local property taxes. Other schools receive more state funding than RB. According to Bylsma, right now the State is not paying all the money they said they would, which leaves RB and other local schools struggling for revenue.

The State funding has become so poor that 22,000 teachers in Illinois have lost their jobs in the past year, just behind the leading state, California.

Bylsma said, “We have had a benefit of some federal grant money, the stimulus money from the Obama Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  We’ve used that money for professional development, and we’ve bought some computers with it. But that money is gone.  Teachers’ salaries keep increasing because of contracts, but we have ten fewer staff members in the building than we had three years ago.”

RB’s budget is so tight that there is not any money to replace text books. According to Bylsma, Science Department Chair Brennan Denny is teaching Chemistry out of the textbook he used when he was in school.

If the referendum does not pass this year, the school board has indicated that it will seek to pass a referendum again next year. In the mean time, possible ways to cut down the budget would heavily impact students. At the November 1 meeting, the board released a budget showing the proposed cuts.

The proposed 2011-2012 budget would cut approximately 1.9 million dollars from RB’s operating costs.  The bulk of those savings would come from laying off 11.2 teachers, spread out across departments.

RB’s extracurricular clubs would be cut down to the minimum. 24 clubs would potentially not be available for students to participate in any longer. This would save the school $115,273, but would prevent many of RB’s students from being involved. 2011-2012 cuts might include Ecology Club, Chess Team, Spanish Club, French Club, German Club, Math Team, NHS, Ski Club, Science Club, Photo Club, Art Club, Forum Club, Fishing Club, Auto Club, Repertory Dance, Guard Club, Forensics, Facets, Men’s Ensemble, Tri-M, Madrigal Singers, The Spring Musical, and The Fall Play.

Athletics would be impacted by the elimination of girls and boys water polo.  Most athletic teams would also lose at least one coaching position as well.

Voting for the referendum will be open on April 5th.  During the same vote, there will also be four open slots for new school board members.

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