Following the recommendation if its new superintendent, the Proviso Township Board of Education may be on the road to untangling some of the mess that has bogged the district down in recent years.
With a projected $14 million deficit staring them in the face, board members voted at their October meeting to balance the budget within three years. Further, the Illinois Association of School Boards will conduct a review of the board’s policy manual over the next three months in hopes of helping the board more efficiently manage the district.
Board members did not discuss the balanced budget initiative in public session, but Superintendent Stan Fields has said he intends to get the district’s finances in order in two years. According to Fields, District 209 is on the verge of going broke.
“District 209 has absolutely no choice but to live within its means,” Fields said.
Since Fields joined Proviso in late August, the district has seen a number of administrative changes: one high school principal was terminated and another is on unpaid suspension, an assistant superintendent resigned while a second assistant superintendent took a job in the human resources department.
Fields has acknowledged allegations of wasteful spending up and down Proviso’s hierarchy and is apparently taking an initial step toward addressing those issues.
A deficit-reduction plan presented to the board suggests cuts in the current budget will be made in the areas of office supplies, an evening school program, late buses, computer purchases and travel expenses. The plan also calls for reductions in the number of consulting contracts, overtime pay and administrative staff.
Over the coming years, the proposal lists a “referendum” and a “reduction of force” as additional measures.
Fields said those options are last resorts and there are no plans to ask the voters for a tax rate increase. Board members did approve a tentative levy to raise tax revenue by 11.4 percent, however, Fields said state tax cap provisions will reduce that figure to the lesser of two amounts; either a 5 percent increase over the current year’s figures or an increase equal to the Consumer Price Index.
The reason for projecting a tentative levy of 11.4 percent, Fields said, is to account for any surges in the township’s property values.
“We do not have any capacity to do what’s called a back-door referendum,” Fields said.
The board’s Vice President Daniel Adams said neither township voters nor board members would likely approve a tax rate increase at this point.
“I think the problem would be trust,” Adams said. “I don’t want any taxes until we clear this up. It’s a mess, our finances.”
As for the policy review, Laurel DiPrima of the Illinois School Board Association is the consultant who will review the board’s policies over the coming months. Changes will be based on state and federal law, the board’s goals and the district’s mission statement.
Once her initial revisions are complete, board members will make edits and then the document will be made public. Typically, members of the public are given 30 days to comment on the document before it’s adopted by the board, DiPrima said.