GLEN ELLYN – Community Consolidated School District 89 officials continue to gather comments from residents about the district's financial situation as the district sees a spike in enrollment and costs continue to increase.
The district on June 23 hosted its third and final community engagement session to gather feedback. In the face of increasing enrollment and increasing costs, the district anticipates deficit spending in the next several years. In fiscal year 2018, the deficit is expected to be $1.2 million.
The meetings are the district's kickoff to the “Our 89” community engagement campaign. The district now plans to do phone and online surveys to gather additional feedback.
"We thought this name was appropriate as it represents our desire to involve you, the residents of District 89, in the conversation about our district as we plan for the future," Superintendent Emily Tammaru told residents during the June 23 meeting at Glen Crest Middle School.
In January, Tammaru convened a Superintendent’s Finance Committee to examine the district’s financial status and priorities. The committee was composed of community members, parents and District 89 staff.
The Finance Committee has recommended two possible solutions: increase revenues or reduce programs and increase fees. Residents can read documents related to the committee’s work at ccsd89.org/financecommittee.
District 89 has not had an educational rate increase since 1986. Increasing revenues would allow the district to avoid cuts to programs that directly impact students.
If the district were to reduce programs and increase fees, officials have said it would need to make about $1.2 million in cuts during the 2019-20 school year. These cuts could include reductions of gifted services, band and orchestra, social work services, library staff and full-day kindergarten. Cuts also could result in larger class sizes, and they could be more significant in future years, officials said.
"As you know, the state of Illinois is in a pretty dire financial situation, so there's really no chance they are going to swoop in and save the day for us," Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Maureen Jones said. "These are our issues, our problems, and that's where the moniker 'Our 89' came from. This is a problem that needs to be solved locally."
During a June 5 community engagement meeting, residents were asked to rank their priorities for the district. Individuals and groups prioritized 19 items that are, or could be, offered in the district.
For a majority of the residents, it was most important that the district prioritize rigorous curriculum and opportunities for learners at all levels. It also was important to them that the district operate with a balanced budget without borrowing money and maintain intervention programming for students who do not meet grade-level standards and expectations.
Items that were not very important to residents included reinstating the dean position at Glen Crest Middle School to provide support for student behavior and discipline issues and maintaining current property tax levels by cutting programs or expenses to match existing revenues.
District 89 serves more than 2,000 preschool through middle school students from Glen Ellyn, Lombard and Wheaton. The district operates four elementary schools and one middle school.
The district's enrollment has grown about 16 percent in the last five years, Tammaru said. Even though the district is operating with larger class sizes these days, its student performance is still in the top 10 percent nationally, she said.
"Our performance has continued to increase as we've increased class sizes," Tammaru said. "So it is at no expense to the students' learning."
Following the community engagement meetings, the Board of Education is expected to make a decision on next steps at its Aug. 20 meeting.
Residents can learn more about Our 89 at ccsd89.org/our89.