EAST ST. LOUIS — School District 189 has cut 50 non-certified administrator jobs, the latest in a series of moves to trim spending in the district.
The cuts come at a time when school officials say the district will run out of money by the end of September unless it gets an emergency bank loan.
The school board voted to eliminate the jobs at a meeting Thursday night. These would be jobs like administrative clerk, custodian, coordinator, warehouse worker, security guard and attendance officer, according to Beth Shepperd, assistant superintendent for human resources and community relations.
However, the school board wants to rehire the five school resource officers who worked in the district last school year.
Superintendent Arthur Culver said they are needed because they work for the city, carry weapons, have arresting authority and can make sure everyone is complying with the rules and regulations.
"We want the campuses to be as safe as possible," he said.
The cost for five school resource officers is projected to be about $320,000. Two of the officers would be at East St. Louis High School, two at the middle schools and one at the ninth grade center, which is at Younge Middle School due to construction at the high school.
Shepperd said the 50 job cuts were necessary. "We were told by the Financial Oversight Panel that if we want to bring back the staff we felt was necessary, we had to find a way to cut $3.5 million. They didn't want us to increase the deficit to bring back the staff we needed," she said.
The district also announced that it is starting classes on Aug. 22, a week later than originally scheduled, because the district still needs to get a handle on enrollment, and how many teachers it is going to need. Also, work is still going on at the Miles Davis Kindergarten Center, which was heavily vandalized recently.
"We have to get a handle on our enrollment. We committed to the board that we would not be overstaffed. The delay will give us more time to assess our student enrollment," Shepperd said.
At its July meeting, District 189 Internal Auditor Nick Mance told the state Financial Oversight Panel that the district's deficit is a projected $9.8 million for the fiscal year 2013 school year, which ends June 30.
The district is looking to borrow about $8 million for the 2013 school year. Mance said the district will have to start making payments that will total a little more than $500,000 a month. The loan would have to be paid back in 13 months, he said.
"We can't catch up with the reduction in revenue. To catch up, we'd have to cut 200 or more people in two years," Mance said. The district has already eliminated more than 400 jobs.
"We're paying for problems that happened 15-20 years ago. There was a strong push to build new schools. They sold alternate revenue bonds, which is basically borrowed revenue. At the end of 2005, the fund balance was about $40 million, Mance said.
"However, the district borrowed about $40 million to build those buildings. (Gordon Bush, Mason-Clark, Dunbar, James Avant, Yvetter Young Middle school and Lincoln Middle School, Annette Officer and Katie Harper-Wright) When you borrow $40 million to build these buildings, it looks like the district has money. So with money from the state going down and the district having to pay back past debts, there is no money, Mance said.
The lender the district is looking for will have to be a commercial institution that understands the district and has a vested interest in the community, Culver said.
Enrollment drops about 250 children a year on average, which means the district loses about $1.5 million in general state aid, Mance said.
Culver said about 120 school districts rely heavily on general state aid. He said he wants to see the way Illinois schools are funded changed. He said it "will take putting kids first so they can get a quality education," Culver said.
Another problem for the district is the way grants were applied for and used.
Culver said in the past the people writing the grants and the financial department were not communicating with each other. As a result, a lot of potential grant money was lost, Culver said.
"Some grants were not applied for in a timely manner. When you apply quickly, you get them back quickly," he said.
In addition, some grant money was spent on things it was not intended for and no amendment was done. The grant money must be explicitly used for what it says it is for, or an amendment has to be done, Culver said.
Without providing an exact amount of lost revenue in grants, Culver told the oversight panel board that thousands of dollars were lost through grants that were not applied for. He said a better system is now in place to alleviate any communication problems and to ensure timely application for the appropriate grants.
Oversight panel board members include Deb Vespa from the state board of education, Sister Julia Huiskamp, from East St. Louis, Culver, Former East St. Louis Police Chief Ranodore Foggs, who is also a retired member of the Illinois State Police, the Rev. Jerome Jackson and Linda Matkowski.