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Indian Prairie considers program cuts, fee hikes

Updated: April 23, 2013 3:21PM

Indian Prairie School District 204 is looking at a variety of cuts to make ends meet, thanks to proposed reductions in funding from Sprinfield.

“This isn’t an austerity process because our budget is in pretty good shape,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Jay Strang said about the proposed budget for 2013-14. “This is budget efficiencies.”

Administrators proposed trimming the budget by just slightly more than $1 million to make up for budget shortfalls caused largely by projected cuts in General State Aid from Springfield and the effects of sequestration in Washington.

Those budget efficiencies include a range of fee increases — most of them optional, like family packs for sporting events, facility rentals for outside groups, and $3 ticket increase for the planetarium for non-Indian Prairie students.

Meanwhile, several more students could be paying required registration fees. Currently, any student approved for free or reduced lunches is also waived from paying registration fees.

Beginning this fall, students would have to complete two separate applications, one for free lunches, and another form with slightly different financial criteria to meet, so that some students who get free or reduced lunches may still end up paying school registration fees.

Strang said that it was hard to tell how many more students might be paying registration fees as a result of the change but said he was “conservatively estimating” about $200,000 in additional revenue to the district.

Football at the middle school level would be cut back, from three teams to two at each grade level, with weight classes divided evenly between the two teams. That change would save the district rougly $50,000, according to administrators, who also said that the expensive sport has dwindled in popularity in recent years.

The only program that is slated for the chopping block is summmer drivers education, beginning wih summer 2014. Drivers ed will continue to be offered during the regular school year.

School Board member Mark Rising said the proposition “stinks” because it forces students to choose between cramming drivers ed into their busy class schedules or paying much more to take the class with a private company.

Other proposals for savings included moving Early Childhood students from the Frontier Campus back to Prairie Children Preschool at the Crouse Education Center, and encouraging top-paid teachers to retire early.

A comprehensive budget proposal will be before the Indian Prairie School Board in June. A vote on the final budget is not expected until September.

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