GARY | The Gary Community School Corp. has lost 15 percent of its student body since last school year and is going to have to make more cuts in teachers, administrators and staff because of the declining enrollment.
School officials said Wednesday the official student count — called Average Daily Membership and taken Sept. 14, is 7,752 students, down 15 percent or 1,369 students from the previous fall.
CFO Nikita White presented a preview of the 2013 calendar year budget during a special School Board meeting Wednesday. Officials estimate the general fund budget at $123.6 million and said they still need to cut $4.8 million next year to have a balanced budget. The bulk of the general fund budget comes from the state and is supported through the per-pupil cost of $7,686.
White said there are 1,600 employees in various positions, 220 of them are substitutes or noncontracted employees.
White was not at the meeting but participated through Skype. She said cuts could include reopening union contracts to get better deals, outsourcing some operations, eliminating overtime and reviewing all supplementary pay assignments and reducing benefit costs. She also suggested reducing utility use and reviewing and renegotiating all contractual service consultants.
"We have realized some savings by bidding in bulk, and we'll continue to do that," White told board members.
White said a budget will be presented to the School Board on Tuesday and will be submitted to the state Nov. 1.
In response to questions from board members, White said top administrators will look at how they can operate more efficiently and cut and combine some administrative positions.
Gary teachers union President Joe Zimmerman said he understands the district wants to reopen the contract, but he intends to get legal advice and talk to the members.
"We can't rush to make any cuts. We have to involve the union in these discussions. We know cuts need to be made, but it has to be done with the students in mind," he said. "Every decision we make, we have to keep student instruction in mind."
This meeting comes on the heels of Zimmerman's having sent letters to teachers regarding financial problems in the district and its possible inability to make payroll after November. District officials said there is enough money in the budget to make its payroll through the end of the year.