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Building a balanced Racine Unified budget is a challenge every single year. Costs increase, the need for new and more technology in our classrooms is ever-changing and increasing, unique students need to grow and our desire to continue to improve drives us to implement innovative new programs. Programs that undoubtedly also add to our costs.

This year was no different. RUSD faced one of our most significant structural budget deficits in many years — more than $11 million.

Yet, I was pleased to share with the Board of Education and our community this week that through careful review, collaboration and difficult decision-making, we have been able to reduce costs and balance our budget.

And the decisions we made continue to keep students front and center.

When your business is children and your largest expenditures directly impact their learning opportunities, environment and educational supports and resources, finding efficiencies is extremely difficult.

We used these major strategies to address the deficit:

  • We started at the administrative office. We carefully considered and made staff reductions, left vacant administrative positions unfilled and reduced department budgets.
  • In the end, roughly 29% of cost savings came from the administrative office, including the reduction in staff of approximately 13%.
  • We very carefully monitored student enrollment numbers as we hired staff for the 2019-20 school year — to ensure efficient staffing at every school. This resulted in a reduction of school staff of about 3.5% district-wide.
  • Finally, we made adjustments to our employee benefits that provided significant cost savings while maintaining a competitive benefits package for our staff.

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Each one of the reductions we’ve made was carefully considered.

As we move our organization forward, leaner and more efficient, I am excited that this budget is still able to provide excellent educational resources, tools and support for our students.

Here are examples of some of the exciting things you can expect to see in our schools this year:

  • The Academies of Racine at Case, Horlick and Park High Schools — fully expanded to include all students grades 9-12.
  • The opening of our second community school at Julian Thomas Elementary in partnership with the United Way of Racine County. The community school will include a school-based mental health clinic and house the Racine Community Health Clinic in partnership with the City of Racine Health Department, Racine County Human Services Department and a coalition of stakeholders.
  • New social studies curriculum for middle and high schools aligned with the Common Core State Standards as well as new math and literacy resources.
  • Construction of a new aquatics center at Case High School.
  • Increased funding to cover the costs for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Parkside access to college credit exams.
  • Expansion of full-day 4-year-old kindergarten to 14 classrooms — an initiative that is proving effective in helping our youngest learners excel.
  • Student technology refresh including 11,000 new Chromebooks, hundreds of HP laptops and desktops, and new projectors in classrooms this fall.

I am proud that we have worked together to address an extremely difficult budget challenge. And we succeeded in doing it in a way that kept our core values front and center.

Our students will benefit from this budget.

We will remain focused on student growth and achievement, provide a great place for people to work and learn and collaborate with our community partners to continue raising Racine, together.

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Dr. Eric Gallien is superintendent for the Racine Unified School District.

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