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      Quincy public schools prepared to cut more than just fat

      Based on financial projections, Quincy Public Schools expects to be in the red by more than $2.6 million. QPS Superintendent Lonny Lemon sent a letter to staff warning that the district wants to cut $2 million from next year's budget, and that can have some serious effects. Business manager Rich Royalty says, there's little fat left to cut, cuts are now being made to the bone.

      Just how serious are we talking?

      Rich Royalty says, "Anytime you cut that much money out of your budget, you're looking at higher class sizes, some programs we offer, we may not be able to offer them, how we deliver services to the students, is going to be different."

      That means these cuts could affect transportation, maintenance, even administrative jobs. Royalty says nothing's off the table. But a 2% increase proposed by the Illinois State Board of Education could provide relief to the district, giving it an additional $780,000.

      That 2% proposal translates to $130 per student. Royalty tells us that's $95 less than last year, but every little dollar helps.

      "Well, potentially if we cut the $2 million out that we're looking at right now, and we get additional money from the state, then we can restore some of those services," Royalty said.

      But the school board doesn't expect to get any of that money.

      "With the state's economic situation, they're going through tough times, and other states throughout the country. This may be one year we don't see an increase," said Royalty.

      The fate of the district is up in the air for now. With the state budget in disarray and a governor impeachment trial, it could be late spring or summer before a decision is made.

      Royalty also told KHQA that asking tax payers for more money is not an option right now, but it won't be ruled out for the future. We also found out that the district is welcoming public input, concerns and questions, regarding the school's financial situation. Lonny Lemon told our staff Wednesday that his staff is working to set up e-mail addresses and other ways that the public can communicate its ideas to the district. We'll let you know as soon as that happens.

      Other highlights of the State Board budget recommendation for FY 2010 include:

    • $12.5 million increase in early childhood programs.
    • $7.9 million increase for bilingual education; the Board also recommends a legislative change in the funding formula of bilingual education to allow for more equity in the distribution of these funds to all districts to better reflect the state TMs changing demographics.
    • $5.2 million increase in agency operations; this item has been reduced from $31 million in 2006 to $24 million in FY 2009; while agency headcount has decreased from nearly 800 just prior to No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to less than 500 currently. This increase is needed to allow the agency to modernize technology, meet labor contracts and comply with state and federal regulations.
    • $4 million increase in new programs to improve student performance and better prepare students for success after they graduate. These funds would allow for development to begin on a longitudinal data system that would support better analysis of student performance from pre-school through post-graduate studies. In addition, funds would be used for Illinois TM participation in the American Diploma Project to review and revise our K-12 learning standards to better prepare students for college and careers.
    • $1.5 million increase to assist six low-performing high school districts.
    • The Board based its decisions regarding programs and funding on several key principles, including support for the largest number of students and greatest flexibility for districts, minimizing the introduction of new programs and mandates in order to conserve resources and the alignment to ISBE TMs strategic plan goals:

    • Every student will demonstrate academic achievement and be prepared for success after high school.
    • Every student will be supported by highly prepared and effective teachers and school leaders.
    • Every school will offer a safe and healthy learning environment for all students.
    • The Illinois State Board of Education will provide its budget recommendation to the Governor and General Assembly for consideration as part of the overall State FY 2010 state budget.