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By John Addyman

   LYONS (Mar 23 11) – Schools Superintendent Rick Amundsen gave the Lyons school board what it wanted last night – a budget proposal that absorbed the $1.2 million gap between revenue and expenditures.
   To close the gap, he recommended cuts totaling $707,000 -- including 9.5 teaching positions – and using $500,000 from fund reserves, and raising the tax levy 1.7 percent.
   And then he told the board he was ready to retire.
   The board deliberated and asked Amundsen for a softer landing – instead of cutting $700,000, to slice $550,000 instead. 

   Amundsen said this afternoon he will meet with his administrative team to decide what items and which positions will be put back into the budget in time for the board’s April 12 vote to adopt it.
   “After I presented the budget, the board president spoke up and the rest of the board agreed on $550,000 in cuts – that seems to be the comfort level,” Amundsen said. “We hope to stay as far away from cutting programs for kids as possible.”
   In his presentation to the board, Amundsen highlighted that over the last two years, the district has lost $1.66 million in state aid. Between the loss of state aid revenue and expenses rising year-to-year, the Lyons budget gap stood at $1.739 million.
   The superintendent showed that a tax levy increase of 40% would take care of that deficit, as would reducing 43 staff members. Or, the district could pull money out of its reserve funds. The board wants to do a bit of all three.
   Amundsen first advocated a 1.7% tax increase – the precise average of tax increases over the six years he has been superintendent. He went through the moves the district has made in the last three years to reduce expenses – including the slicing of 20.3 full-time positions, 6.8 of those teachers. He said Lyons had reduced costs in supplies, allowed fewer field trips, charged for driver’s ed, cut the number of athletic contests and supply amounts, done more transportation sharing, increased meal prices, eliminated non-BOCES staff development and reduced summer curriculum-writing workshops.
   This year’s budget is $18.7 million; the district proposes a $19.1 million layout for 2011-12. Expected is $17.9 million in revenue, including $500,000 in end-of-year fund balance and the proceeds from the tax increase – leaving a $1.2 million deficit.
   Amundsen brought back a budget with $707,000 taken out of it – essentially an $18.4 million budget. But to get there, Lyons was faced with losing half again as many teachers as had been let go in the prior three years – four elementary teachers, 1.5 middle/high school teachers, two positions in Reading, Gifted and Electronic Information Processing, and four half-time positions in Art, Music, Library and Phys Ed.
   There were other cuts in Amundsen’s new budget – the district would pull out of its gym-use relationship with the Lyons Community Center, saving $35,000; reductions in athletics ($15,000) and extra-curricular activities ($15,000); the loss of mileage reimbursement for the Foster Grandparents program (a $3,000 savings); driver’s ed would go ($3,000); the four late school bus runs would disappear ($18,000); elementary and middle school summer school ($6,000 to $8,000 savings), four weekdays of nurse practitioner services rather than five ($2,500); opening the fitness room later or charging a higher fee ($2,500); not filling the position of a retiring staff member ($30,000).
   What the board decided on was a budget with a $550,000 level of cuts (an $18.6 million budget). A planned $160,000 bus-purchase line item will either be added to that amount or raised as a separate item on the budget ballot. 
   The superintendent could not say what will emerge as the final cuts until after his administrators have met and crunched numbers with Assistant Superintendent for Business Mike Pangallo. That final plan will go to the school board.
   As for his own future, Amundsen, 56, said he informed the board of his intent to retire. “I have not decided when. I am of retirement age. If they support it, I would be willing to step aside once they find a successor for me. So, in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be put out to pasture.
   “It takes a long time to get a superintendent search together, to do the interviews, negotiate a contract. I wanted to give the board plenty of time so they can thoughtfully proceed. This is a very stressful fiscal time. They did appreciate that I’ve given them plenty of lead time.”
   Amundsen said he has “so many things I can do, lots of opportunities for other things to do. I’m looking forward to the next stage of my life. Lyons has been a great spot for me to be the superintendent. I’m very fortunate. I’ve been very blessed.”  



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