DeKALB – Seven of the nine remaining DeKalb School District 428 board candidates expressed their views on local budget cuts during a forum hosted by the DeKalb Area Rental Association on Sunday.
Candidates Twangie Smith and Valerie Pena Hernandez were not in attendance for the event, held at the old Finest Furniture building at 1500 Sycamore Road.
One of the first submitted questions tasked the candidates with coming up with three specific cuts they would recommend as a board member.
Jeff Hallgren said the district is in a very big pickle regarding spending.
“Taxes have moved up and expenditures move accordingly, and it will be very hard for that to go down,” Hallgren said.
He proposed privatizing nonteaching staff and various suppliers as a means of cutting costs.
Several candidates agreed that various contracts should be evaluated to see whether any cuts can be made.
Board President Victoria Newport said that 89 percent of the school’s budget comes from contracts and that savings could be made within them. She also proposed to take a look at nonessential sports and clubs.
“Some clubs go to the wayside, so I think we need to look at that area and see if we are meeting the students’ needs,” Newport said. “If clubs are stale, let’s take some out.”
Former board President Tracy Williams said that in addition to whittling away at contracts, cuts can be made in what the district spends on buildings because they have had a lot of investment over the years as well as from the highest level of administration.
“There’s no doubt there are significant dollars to be saved on the highest administration,” Williams said. “We can make the education center more efficient.”
Shatoya Black called for re-evaluating contracts because of concerns on state funding in the absence of a budget.
“When the entity providing the money is not stable, we can’t expect money when it is not consistent,” Black said.
Sean Johnson said cuts should come from the administrative level and start looking down from there.
“Until we figure out what’s going on in the state itself from not having a budget, we should look at that,” Johnson said.
Catherine Harned could not provide a specific cut but said that generating new revenue should be the top priority.
“We have to increase revenue before we think about taking anything else out of the system,” Harned said.
Jeromy Olson said cuts should start in places that don’t affect academics, such as administration and building repairs.
“Those are the first things you try to run down,” Olson said. “Our four union contracts can be discussed as well if you get to that point, but driving revenue is a key, too.”
DARA also will be hosting a similar forum for the school board candidates at 3 p.m. April 2 at 1500 Sycamore Road.