The Rockford School Board has taken an important first step in solving its budget problems by cutting more than $15 million in personnel/programs. However, it is troubling to me that board members Nancy Kalchbrenner and Alice Saudargas would start talking about restoring cuts if more income is obtained. One of the reasons we have this financial crisis is because Kalchbrenner and her majority (Saudargas, Bob Evans and Karol Hammond) restored cuts last summer, and the result was that this years budget went from a surplus to a deficit.
No cuts should be restored. The board needs to follow their balanced budget policy, which was supported by the diverse community members on the Strategic Planning Committee and the Unitary Status Steering Committee. If the board abandons this policy as suggested by Kalchbrenner, then it should be removed from office. If Kalchbrenner lacks the ability or desire to balance the budget, then she should resign. The board needs to cut $13 million more, plus have a plan in place to reduce the projected accumulated deficit of $32 million. The board promised to reduce the accumulated deficit to zero by 2006 if the voters passed the referendum. Instead, the Kalchbrenner majority keeps increasing it.
The cuts would NOT have affected the children if the Kalchbrenner majority had asked that ALL employees take a wage freeze next year to save more than $10 million as R.E.A.Ch. (Rockford Educating All Children) suggested. The Kalchbrenner majority refused to ask that of their major campaign contributors, who have received the highest salary increase in recent history at the expense of the kids.
R.E.A.Ch. has asked the administration to be streamlined for the last three years, but the Nancy Kalchbrenner majority ignored us. Instead, they hired a $200,000 interim superintendent, spent more of our precious grant money on administration, and wasted taxpayers hard-earned money on attorneys fees for the FBI investigation.
R.E.A.Ch. asked them to renegotiate the $10 million bonus that retiring teachers are receiving next year. The Kalchbrenner majority refused to do it, again at the expense of the kids. See the rest of our suggestions at www.r-e-a-ch.org.
The Kalchbrenner majority constantly complains about the state and federal mandates, but their predecessors (Ted Biondo, Patti Delugas, David Strommer and Stephanie Caltagerone) were able to have surpluses in their budget despite these mandates. How many meetings has Bob Evans held as Legislative Committee chair with the state and federal legislators? None! Its time for the Kalchbrenner majority to admit that the budget problems are because of their poor financial decisions.
If the Kalchbrenner majority FAILS to make the necessary cuts or negotiate the necessary concessions from the employees unions, then they should resign. The community has had to endure too many years of this annual event of budget terror, and it should end NOW!
Barb Dent is the chairman of R.E.A.Ch.