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Participation, not fees, to rise for Community Ed

No fee increases are planned in District 833 Community Education programs for the 2011-12 fiscal year but participation is expected to increase, according to Ernie Pines, district community services director.

There are no major changes in the $11.05 budget from last year, Pines told School Board members at a May 5 workshop, with a 3.2 percent increase in spending for expenses similar to other district departments.

As other district departments are projected to do next year, Pines will tap his department's reserve funds to make up for a $343,571 difference between revenue and expenses.

Community education, which oversees all-day kindergarten, adult basic education, early childhood and family education, adult education and year-around youth programs, will continue to see an increase in participation, he said.

Pines said that translates into an estimated $180,000 increase in fee revenue.

The district receives $5.42 in state aid for each district resident. Among other revenue, early childhood gets $120 for every district child under age 5. The levies are specific and cannot be used for other programs, Pines said.

All 14 elementary schools have Kindergarten Plus (all-day kindergarten) with 35 sections projected for next year.

The number of preschool screenings is expected to increase for children ages 3 to 5.

Community Services will also oversee preschool programs for all 4-year-old children for a fee at 12 schools with free programs at Pullman and Newport elementary schools where there are high number of children receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

About 80 percent of the families of children in preschool programs will get a home visit, something not covered by the levy. Pine said he plans to increase the service to all families with children in preschool.

Pines said he's heard people comment that the department's $1.34 million in unallocated funds is "large," but it's in line with other school districts. It will decrease 1 percent to 9 percent of the total budget for next year, Pines said.

On the expense side of the ledger, there is an additional $537,978 in the budget for Saturday custodians at Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools.

Community Services also pays $537,978 to the district to cover overhead for use of the District Program Center, property and liability insurance, use of buildings for Kid's Club and swimming pool temperature increases.

School Board Member Ron Kath asked how Pines calculated increased program participation.

Nearly 90 percent of participation, including Kindergarten Plus, is already known, Pines said.

Kath asked how long community services can continue to keep fees the same if salaries, projected in Pine's budget at a 2 percent increase, go up each year.

With "efficiencies," Pine said, his department is able to meet increased participation with the same or fewer number of employees. In time, fees will probably increase.

Kath asked how $38,000 allocated for volunteers is being spent. The money pays for a supervisor, Pines said.