E.C. schools may need to cut as much as $3 million in 2013

2012-06-13T21:02:00Z 2012-06-14T13:52:31Z E.C. schools may need to cut as much as $3 million in 2013By Carmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

EAST CHICAGO | The School City of East Chicago may have to cut as much as $3 million in spending for calendar year 2013, Superintendent Mike Harding said Wednesday.

District officials said they hope they don't have to lay anyone off to do it.

Harding said administrators are looking at the number of retirements and the positions filled by long-term substitutes. He said 15 people have retired.

"We are not anticipating large reductions," Harding said Tuesday night after an East Chicago School Board meeting.

"We think we will be able to manage. We may have some (layoffs), but it won't involve just the instructional staff. It will be across the board, in all categories. That's part of our cost-reduction plan that was adopted by the board a couple of months ago."

Initially, Harding said school leaders believed they would have to cut between $2.5 million and $4.6 million as a result of the state "defunding" an accounting provision that allowed public schools to spread out the per pupil loss over a three-year period rather than instantly.

"We also don't have stimulus money," Harding said. "And like most school districts, we inflated our budget projections. We think the cost reductions will be more around $2.4 million to $3 million."

Harding said administrators are looking at making the district operate more efficiently and effectively by turning off lights and making utilities more cost-effective. He said the insurance coverage also was changed, and overtime was reduced.

Harding also said the district is looking at school programs in terms of what is effective and what needs to be shelved.

Though he didn't have specific numbers, Harding said the district lost students as a result of charter schools and the state's voucher program. That translated into a loss of some funds.

He said East Chicago schools also lost students as families relocated to Illinois or other nearby communities.

"You can track that through the student registration number. The voucher system impacted us, but the impact wasn't more than it had been. We also added students," Harding said.

"The challenge is to keep moving academically and keep providing the best opportunity for students to improve and move in a positive way, despite the challenges that all urban districts face."

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