Rockford Schools Budget Woes

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

A two point eight million dollar deficit in the district's operating fund is deemed unacceptable by Rockford School Board members Tuesday night. So it's back to the drawing board.
The five board members present Tuesday night voted unanimously to send the budget back to adminstration to eliminate that deficit and present a balanced budget.
The district's Chief Operations Officer Tom Hoffman says despite the operating deficit, the district overall is in a surplus. The operating deficit comes in part becaue the district has not yet received state funding and they are unsure how much they will get.
Hoffman says if they receive a 100 dollar per pupil increase in state funding they should be able to close the deficit. As a point of reference, last year, the district received a 150 dollar per pupil increase.
Still, since the board has directed administration to create a balanced budget Hoffman and Superintendent Dennis Thompson may have to start looking for places to adjust expenditures. Though Hoffman did not go so far as to say make budget cuts.
"We are confident we'll see increased state funding we just don't know what thats going to be. So we're just going to wait and see whats going to happen but we're also looking at other opportunites there may be," says Hoffman.
Hoffman hopes the state will alert the district to what funding it will receive some time in July. The board has until September 30th to pass a final budget.
The mother of murder victim Bradley Berogan also spoke out at Tuesday night's board meeting. She is still angry that the board won't hand over her son's diploma. She says she plans to attend every board meeting until they give it to her. She is also searching for an attorney to bring the case to court.
Superintendent Dennis Thompson is standing firm on the issue, though he sympathises with the Berogan family. Thompson says even though Berogan had passing grades at the time of his death, since he did not finish out the school year, he did not earn an official diploma and will not receive one.
Also Tuesday night, school board members say they're keeping a close eye on the work of the district's custodians. Most of you probably remember the highly controversial decision to outsource custodians back in 2005. Satisfaction rates for that work are high and have improved this year over last. That surprised some board members who said of the schools they visitied recently, some could use some more clean-up. The district has saved more than 7 million dollars through the switch.
An update on the Freshman Foundation program that will be launched this fall at all four Rockford High Schools.
Freshmen getting D's and high F's in school will have another chance to boost their G.P.A's. Its called Extended Learning Opportunities. Kids with 41 to 69% mastery of standards will be given the chance to take extended learning classes. If teachers feel they've mastered the content after taking the course, their grades will be changed to a 'C'. The program is invitation only. Chronically truant students or kids with serious behavior problems will not be allowed to participate.
Finally at Tuesday night's meeting, the board decided to hire seven unarmed security gaurds to man each middle school and Auburn's new freshman campus.


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