With only a moderate increase in revenues projected for the 2008-09 school year, administrators in District 91 plan to spend almost $2 million more while still squirreling away a bundle of unspent cash.
Board members in the K-8 school district heard a preliminary budget presentation Aug. 14 that calls for about $15.6 million in spending. That figure represents more than a 14 percent increase over what was spent in 2007-08. Offsetting that spike in spending is a much more conservative 3.6 percent increase in revenues, or about $600,000 in new money.
But even with the enormous disparity between new spending and new revenue, administrators still expect to end the year with a surplus. Ed Brophy, assistant superintendent of operational services, told board members the budget has about $1.9 million worth of breathing room.
“Bottom line, all funds continue to be healthy,” Brophy said during his presentation.
That figure is down from the roughly $3 million cushion that came with the previous year’s budget.
Much of the new spending is tied to personnel. A new salary schedule for teaching assistants in the district accounts for some of that increase, as does an incredible increase in health insurance costs. Three months ago, administrators announced the district’s premiums would be increasing by some 20 percent depending on the type of coverage selected by employees. Both Brophy and Superintendent Lou Cavallo said that as soon as district staff members return to work this month, there will be a number of meetings held to try and reduce insurance costs.
Of the roughly $17.6 million in anticipated revenues, 80 percent, or $13.6 million, will come from local property taxes.
Within the total budget’s various funds, projected levy amounts are shifting. The public schools have more than $4.2 million in their working cash fund, so Brophy is recommending that the district levy very little money directly into its reserve account. Transportation expenses are likely to decrease in the coming years thanks to staffing cuts and other moves expected to improve efficiencies.
Maintaining the district’s buildings has long been a financial drain, but Brophy expects that of the $2.3 million levied in that account, about $1 million will remain at the end of the fiscal year. In 2006, the district levied for $710,000 and in 2007 sought to collect $1.3 million. For several years now, District 91 has ended the year with a deficit of about $500,000 in its maintenance budget.
Levying for additional funds within the budget requires a juggling act that pulls money from other accounts. Administrators and board members have pledged to improve student performance and have said that goal will be supported by the budget. In shoring up the maintenance budget, administrators are shrinking the transportation, working cash, capital improvements and municipal retirement levies.
The preliminary budget is available to the public, as mandated by state law. Residents can view the spending plan in preparation for a Sept. 11 public hearing during which time comments may be made. Board members are expected to adopt a final budget immediately following the hearing.