A proposed spending plan that calls for $16.4 million in total revenues would give administrators in District 91 substantial breathing room to cover the costs of day-to-day expenses in the classroom. According to a preliminary budget presented to school board members for fiscal year 2008, there will be an additional $2.6 million collected for the education fund beyond the $9.8 million in anticipated expenses.
For the entire budget, district officials anticipate taking in $3.1 million in surplus revenues.
“I don’t think that [disparity] is exceptionally high,” Superintendent Lou Cavallo said.
Ninety percent of District 91’s funding, or $13.78 million, is raised through local taxes.
The education fund, or Fund 10, is the heftiest portion of the public school district’s annual budget, and includes teachers’ salaries, office supplies and a host of other line items essential to the daily operation of the schools. Approximately 76 percent of the expenses in Fund 10 are devoted to salary costs, according to Cavallo.
Collectively, the district’s proposed budget calls for $13,393,390 in spending, but $16,465,298 in taxes and other revenue will be collected.
In Fund 10 alone, $12,451,976 will be raised through local taxes, general state aid and federal money.
Cavallo pointed to several factors in accounting for the discrepancy between what taxpayers will be asked to pay and what will actually be spent. The state’s tax levy system-with its tax cap protections-is an imperfect one that forces school districts to levy a larger amount than what might be necessary.
“You don’t want to levy too little, and if you do, you have a shortfall,” Cavallo said.
Also, Cavallo said, there is still some uncertainty with respect to staffing levels and health insurance costs for the coming year. As many as 10 additional classroom aides could be hired, as well as two or three more teachers. Those numbers won’t be firm until administrators have a better understanding of what class sizes will be, Cavallo said.
A referendum approved in 2004 is also helping to bolster the district’s income, Cavallo said.
By comparison, a budget proposal in 2005 for the 2005-06 school year projected expenses at $13.1 million and revenues at $14.2 million for a surplus of $1.1 million. Roughly 67 percent of the budget was dedicated to salaries and benefits.
A public hearing on the FY08 budget proposal was opened by the board on Aug. 9 and members of the public have 30 days to submit their comments to the district. No action was taken by the board on the spending plan. The group is expected to vote on the proposal in September.
In other financial matters, the school board received the results of a facilities audit mandated by the state and occurs once every 10 years. There were few surprises in the report generated by the physical inspections, Building and Grounds Superintendent Robert Laudadio said, and several big-ticket items will likely be less expensive than projected.
Among the district’s five schools, more than $1.3 million worth of repairs and improvements must be made in the next two years, according to the reports. That estimate includes a state-mandated cushion of 10 percent to allow for price increases and contingency costs.
“[That] might sound like a lot of money, but for the number of facilities and the age of our facilities, it’s not a lot of money,” Cavallo said during the board’s review of the audit last week.
Laudadio pointed to the state’s tendency to overestimate the costs of any repair projects, a strategy that’s employed simply to ensure the district raises enough money for those projects. For example, a new boiler for Grant-White Elementary School is unlikely to eat up the $215,000 that the state is projecting, Laudadio said.
Similarly, tuckpointing projects on the roofs of several schools will likely cost less than the state’s estimates, he said. Also, several mandated repairs can be done in-house, which will help the district save money.
One mandated repair that did catch Laudadio off guard is the directive to replace stairwell handrails in each building. The total cost of that project is estimated at $117,000.
Bonds may be sold to fund the improvements, and district officials said that is likely the route that will be taken.