NILES - Both teaching and nonteaching staff stood and turned their backs to members of Niles Board of Education Wednesday night after the board voted 3-2 to cut 19 nonteaching positions.
Minutes later, the board failed to pass by a 2-2-1 vote the companion reduction in force measure that would have eliminated 15 teaching positions.
Superintendent Mark Robinson recommended the reduction in forces because the district faces a $1.7 million debt by the end of the 2013 school year.
"Because we did not get the vote (on teachers), we will be in fiscal emergency in the 2013 school year," Robinson said.
In the vote on service staff, board members Susan Longacre and Christopher Doutt voted against the reduction in force.
On the teachers, board members Longacre and Doutt again voted against the layoffs, Richard Limongi abstained, and Eric Lanham and Tony Perrone voted for the layoffs. Limongi would not comment why he abstained from voting on the legislation.
In a PowerPoint presentation of the district's five-year forecast before the votes, Linda Molinaro told the crowd of more than 100 people that the district is expecting to have an end-of-the-year balance of $42,015 in 2012.
The failure to layoff the teaching positions will kick the district's budget deficit up to $1.2 million, Robinson said.
"The reductions that were not passed were right around $1 million - $900,000 to $1 million - and if you add that on to the negative $300,000 that we already had, it comes out to be about $1.2 million," Robinson said.
Robinson said the district could avoid being placed in fiscal emergency if it can convince voters to pass an emergency levy in November.
The school board did not officially discuss the idea of a levy.
Prior to the vote, Linda Huber, a member of the Niles Education Association, said, "I wonder how many of those casting votes have any idea what people really do at the school.
''You're cutting custodians who are are already short-handed ... yet you are going to expect the job to be done. You're cutting para-pros from offices .... do you even have any idea what they do?"
Huber said the district had bus routes with substitute for almost the entire year.
"Now you're not replacing them," she said. "Instead, we will simply have to double up. Some of our busses are overloaded as it is."
Jason Busse, a Niles parent, told board members prior to the meeting that he worries about how the cuts will affect the quality of education.
"I am a Red Dragon," Busse said. "My parents were Red Dragons. My grandparents were Red Dragons. I am proud to be a product of Niles schools."
Despite that, Busse said he would consider moving his children out of the district through open enrollment.
Niles Education Association spokesman Chad Ries said while he is pleased that the teachers were spared, he feels bad for his nonteaching staff colleagues whose jobs were lost.
"We've been under threat of fiscal emergency before and you know what - all of us together found ways to get us out of it,'' he said. ''We can fix it again.''
"We understand that they (board and administration) feel that there's things they have to do, but we're not sure that they're looking in all the proper areas," he said. "There have been no cuts in the administrative offices, nor has their been any cuts in administration, or any talk of it, that we know of.''
Robinson said it will take more cuts, additional revenue or a combination of both to stop the district from falling into fiscal emergency due to the projected budget deficit.