What was once projected to be a $14 million spending deficit in Proviso Township High School District has apparently been shrunk by several million dollars.

At the District 209 board of education meeting on Dec. 18, Business Manager Nikita Johnson said the fiscal year deficit is now estimated to be $10 million. Though the figure is a projection, Johnson said several new policies adopted by the board will account for saving millions in unchecked spending over the next seven months.

“Through the approval of three board policies on purchasing, payment procedures, and activity fund purchasing, we have been able to reduce the occurrence of expenditures made prior to approval,” Johnson said in an e-mail following the meeting. “There have also been reductions in administrative staff and consultant usage.”

According to an earlier budget presentation for the fiscal year 2007, the district is trying to reign in spending on office supplies, energy, maintenance agreements and consulting contracts. The roughly $4 million that’s expected to be saved is spread over these areas, Johnson said.

“All these things collectively will cause the district to realize a reduced projected deficit,” Johnson said.

Board members made no comments regarding the updated projection during the meeting, but board President Chris Welch said afterwards the savings is a credit to the new administrative team. Welch acknowledged the district has struggled with mismanagement in recent years, but order is apparently being restored.

“I can tell you even as laymen we saw that our district wasn’t being properly run and properly guided,” Welch said.

Board members are making the “tough decisions” now, Welch said, and under the leadership of district administrators, additional success is expected.

“To me the priorities are very simple,” Welch said. “Get your financial house in order. Then you can compete in the global market for the best and the brightest. Once you do that I think you’ll start to see [student] test scores go up.”

Superintendent Stan Fields said the new deficit projection is “very compelling,” but said it’s not necessarily attributable to any one policy. Roughly one-third of the fiscal year 2007 budget, which was created prior to Fields’ hire in August, is consulting contracts, Fields said. Further scrutiny of those line items plus stronger internal controls is adding up to savings for the taxpayer, Fields said.

“We’re just restoring order to the district’s operation,” Fields said.

The superintendent cautioned that the $10 million deficit is just a projection and will likely change from month to month. Board members will continue to receive monthly financial reports from the business manager and the ideal scenario would see that figure continue to drop, Fields said.

“A budget is a spending plan,” Fields said. “The board of directors, the administrators and the taxpayers should want to know how you are doing with respect to that plan.”