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D-12 plans layoffs for 35 positions

Fiscal fears drive school board’s vote in Johnsburg

JOHNSBURG – About 20 percent of Johnsburg District 12’s teaching staff could be laid off at the end of the school year.

The school board voted to eliminate 35 of its 177 teaching positions, laying off all the first- through third-year teachers, at its meeting Tuesday evening, Superintendent Dan Johnson said.

“We believe that this is a temporary situation, and once we get our numbers, we will be able to make fiscally sound decisions and hopefully get everyone back,” he said.

The decision was based on a financial report and uncertainties over what the district will receive next year from the state and federal governments. Reduction-in-force notices must be sent out at least 45 days before the end of the school year.

Legislators in Springfield are debating whether some of the unfunded pension liability should be shifted onto local school districts, and a budget has not yet been approved.

The automatic cuts at the federal level, which went into effect in March, also could affect the special education and vocational funding the district receives, Johnson said.

The board expects to make a decision by the end of May, after the spring legislative session in Springfield wraps up.

The decision to cut 35 teachers, which amounts to more than $1.5 million in savings, was the “safest fiscal option,” Johnson said, adding that if the worst-case scenario did happen and none of the teachers could be hired back, the district would have “to do some major reshuffling.”

“We’re not anticipating that,” Johnson said. “We’re not anticipating having to do that. That would almost have to be a death sentence out of Springfield.”

Last year, the $4.4 million the district received from state and federal sources made up about 22 percent of its budget.

The district had about 34 days of cash on hand at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year, according the State Board of Education.

The state grades districts on their finances, and it gives districts with 30 days or less its lowest ranking.

In the past, low fund balances and late state payments forced District 12 to borrow so it could pay its bills until the payments came in.

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