Board of Education approves cuts in face of $12 million deficit


The Unit 5 Board of Education approved $1.8-2.2 million in cuts at a special board meeting on Jan. 31. The cuts, the district said, may be reversed with the approval of the tax referendum on the April 4 ballot.

Facing a $12 million deficit, the Unit 5 Board of Education unanimously approved a series of budget cuts for the 2023-2024 school year at a special board meeting on January 31. The cuts may be reversed if the property tax referendum passes in April.

The cuts, which total approximately $2 million, include reducing school budgets by 10%, reducing administrative staff and eliminating co- and extracurricular offerings at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.

The 10% school budget cut reduces classroom material and supply spending, limiting the district’s ability to update and adopt new curriculum and textbooks and decreasing student access to hands-on learning experiences.

Those learning experiences will no longer occur off school campuses, as the Board approved removing field trip funding district-wide.

After eliminating two building administrator roles last year and a paid administrator-training program, in addition to three dozen teaching positions, the district will further reduce administrative staff.

This cut could mean reducing the number of assistant principals at junior high or high schools or continuing the trend of elementary school principals overseeing two or more elementary buildings.

The Board approved eliminating all junior high athletics and clubs like yearbook and student council.

At the elementary school level, Unit 5 will no longer offer band or orchestra to 5th graders.

High school athletes will see their opportunities to compete limited as the district’s remaining freshman athletic programs — boys and girls basketball, volleyball and football — were eliminated, and the number of athletes allowed to travel with the team for out-of-town competitions will be reduced.

These cuts did not come easily for Unit 5 Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle and the Unit 5 School Board.

Weikle, in a memo to the school board, said, “the Board of Education, myself and other administrators wish that we didn’t have to do this, but our Education Fund revenue is not enough to cover the expenses of all the opportunities we provide to students.”

The cuts, Weikle said at the board meeting, are the result of the district’s current financial situation — a situation that predates her tenure as superintendent.

Weikle said she “hates” the district’s current reality as “ultimately, it is our students who are negatively impacted.”

The Unit 5 School Board emphasized that additional district revenue could result in the cuts being reinstated.

At the four-hour meeting in Normal West’s auditorium, the Board also approved a series of revenue increases roughly amounting to $600,000.

To increase district revenue, the Board approved increasing school registration costs and activity fees and raising the ticket price for sporting events.

The district will also raise its facility rental fees, what outside organizations pay to use district space.

Unit 5 will adopt the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program at the high schools.

The National School Breakfast and Lunch program is a federally assisted meal program that reimburses schools for every meal that meets a set of nutrition standards.

This revenue stream has its drawbacks, as it restricts which food and beverages may be sold to students during the school day.

At Community, Grounded in Iron, which relies on the sale of snacks and candy to support its program, will be forced to find alternate sources of revenue.

An additional $3 million in cuts are proposed for 2024-2025.

Several community members — including current and former Carlock students and Carlock’s Mayor — spoke in opposition of closing the elementary school, which has been part of the community since 1939.

No action was taken on the proposed cuts for the 2024-2025 school year, pending the results of April 4’s referendum vote.