Taft budget cut by $800,000, enrollment slated to increase
by BRIAN NADIG
As the Taft High School Local School Council was learning about the successes of Taft’s new fund-raising foundation, it also received news that the school’s operating budget is being cut by about $800,000 despite a projected enrollment increase of up to 300 students in the fall.
It was reported at the council’s June 4 meeting that schools could face up to a 15 percent reduction in their 2013-14 budget as the Chicago Public Schools switches from a per-staffing-position funding formula to a per-pupil formula. Schools were given their budget totals later that week.
School system officials say that the previous funding formula was outdated and that the change will give principals unprecedented autonomy in spending matters in an effort to create budgets to best fit the needs of their students. The pool of newly flexible funds given to each principal will include money for teachers, support personnel, supplies and additional instructional programming.
However, principals also are being asked to use their new budget powers to make cutbacks which could affect programming and staffing due to a projected $1 billion budget deficit that the system is facing. Chicago Public Schools officials have said that the deficit is the result of declining or flat revenues and a $400 million increase in annual pension payments and that they likely will be forced to use “one-time reserves” in order to balance the budget.
Details of Taft’s budget was presented at an LSC meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 20, but it is estimated that the new budget will be between 3 percent and 4 percent less than last school year’s budget of approximately $24 million. Taft’s enrollment is projected to increase from about 3,100 to about 3,400.
LSC chairman Ted Pripiris said that the reduction would have been larger if it were not for the extra resources that Taft was promised as part of its transition to a full International Baccalaureate Program school. The program encourages critical thinking and independent student projects.
Pirpiris said that under the new per-student formula, budget adjustments will be made on the 10th day of the school year instead of on the 20th day as in the past. He said that late-enrolling students could cost schools funding and that the earlier start to the school year, which traditionally has been after Labor Day, makes that more likely.
Also at the meeting, Taft principal Mary Kay Cappitelli announced that a graduate of the school made a $10,000 donation to the school at a recent tribute to former Taft music teacher J.J. Stamm. Organizers of the tribute concert have created a nonprofit 501c3 corporation which will serve as a fund-raising tool for the school and provide tax benefits to donors.
“There will be a lot more of those (donations),” tribute organizer Rich Winge said. “We have the potential as a group to do wonderful things at this school. The benefit of having a 501c3 is clear.”
Proceeds from the tribute concert have been used to buy the school a new digital piano, which allows users to record music on a flash drive, and to pay for refurbishing Stamm’s grand piano, which he donated to the school. Stamm, who worked at Taft from 1958 to 1983, directed the school’s mixed chorus, and in 1964 he directed Taft’s production of “Annie Get Your Gun,” which is believed to have been the first Broadway musical to be performed at the school.
Cappitelli also reported that Taft had 28 Illinois State Scholars this year and that, while an exact figure was not available, the school posted a “slight increase” this year in its average ACT score, which last year was 18.4.
The council also honored four retiring members, parent members Pirpiris and Liz Meersman and students Ciara McNaughton and Kathleen Meersman.
Pirpiris, who served on the LSC for 7 years, praised former Taft principal Dr. Arthur Tarvardian for the leadership he demonstrated in reviving the school, calling him “a very complex principal” who could be abrasive at times but who was “usually right.” Pirpiris said that he hopes the council will give Cappitelli, who is completing her first year as principal, the support that she needs to be successful.
The student fee at Taft next year will be about $240, in addition to other expenses that students may be charged. The additional expenses include a graduation ceremony fee of $90, a school lock for $15, a Spanish or French workbook for $20, and a variety of science, art, music and advanced placement test fees. Low-income families are eligible for a waiver on a portion of the standard fee.
The council tentatively scheduled its annual organizational meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 9.