School board plans for budget, retirement

Jim Helton

Waterloo School Superintendent Jim Helton painted a gloomy picture once again for school district finances during a presentation to the Waterloo School Board on Monday night.

The board also took steps to prepare for life after Helton, as he is slated to retire at the end of the 2013-14  school year.

Declining revenue from the state has combined with flatlining equalized assessed valuations over recent years to put many school districts in a tight fiscal bind. The transfer of reserves is helping in the meantime, but as Helton said, “this cannot continue for too long.”

The school board voted on a reduction of three district teaching positions (high school teacher Mollie Ray and elementary school teachers Judy Vogt and Angela McAlister) as one unfortunate result of the budget mess.

The Waterloo School District’s educational fund is projected to be $1.6 million in deficit on June 30, Helton said. Currently, the district is $1.5 million short in revenues for the current fiscal year.

General State Aid prorated at 89 percent alone shorted the district $319,000 this year.

“If Gov. Quinn’s budget proposals are approved this spring, it would be strangling to public education, as General State Aid was prorated at 82 percent and transportation cut to 19 percent funding,” he said.

Basically, Helton said, the school district has to project flat funding and flat EAV going forward for the near term.

In addition to the slight reduction in force, Helton said the district plans to assume almost all of nine upcoming retirements by evaluating class sizes and programming and re-assigning staff.

“Paraprofessional assignments are closely monitored as well, and look to be reduced,” he said.

Other suggested measures to meet budget demands include an administrative salary freeze, reducing the reading coordinator position to 100 days, and making some tough decisions when it comes to bus transportation.

Helton said informational meetings for parents to discuss future busing changes are scheduled for March 25 at Zahnow Elementary and March 28 at Gardner Elementary.

In all, Helton said the district hopes to cut $435,000 in expenditures from its budget for fiscal year 2014.

“We can’t fix the gap,” Helton said, “but we’re going to close the gap.”

Helton retirement

Also on Monday, the school board approved two measures relating to Helton’s planned retirement in June 2014.

The first was an agreement with Illinois Association of School Boards Professional Services to assist in a new superintendent search.

Waterloo School Board President Dwight Schaefer explained that IASB will comb for candidates that best suit the district’s needs and will suggest a list of possible names for interview.

The second measure, approved by a 5-2 vote (Valerie Baxmeyer and Linda Pickett voted against), was the creation of a new Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations position within the district.

Schaefer stressed that the board is not yet ready to vote on a person to fill this new position.

“We need to reorganize the organizational chart so that it makes more sense going forward,” he said.

Helton explained that supervision of the non-educational side of the district is needed.

“It has been an area of need for quite some time, and in the board’s transition to a new superintendent, they are also phasing out (superintendent’s office manager) Laverne Pflueger’s position the following year,” Helton said.

He stressed that Pflueger has served this district for more than 20 years, and the responsibilities and history she possesses cannot be easily transferred to another individual.

“Those responsibilities are not typical of an office manager,” he said. “It has evolved due to her integrity and expertise gained over that time frame.”

Pflueger’s position will be replaced by an administrative assistant, Helton said, while the new business position will be responsible for “everything business,” basically the non-academic side of the district’s organizational chart.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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