For the fourth consecutive year, Proviso District 209 has submitted a balanced budget.

The fiscal year 2012 budget, which forecasts a $390,955 surplus, was approved Sept. 21 by the district’s state-appointed Finance Oversight Panel FOP, which is tasked with overseeing its finances.

“It is a good budget,” said panel administrator Tim Cole. “It is a balanced budget. It is aggressive, but it can be done. The trick is to manage it. There is not a lot of room for error.”

The FY’12 budget anticipates taking in $73,959,166 in revenue, and spending $73,568,211.

“We are very proud of the hard work that went into this,” said D209 School Board President Chris Welch in a statement. “We made it known that we must produce a balanced budget – a budget that keeps our focus on education and the needs of our students. With a loss in revenue, it was a challenge, but it was a challenge that we were ready to face. Collaboration on behalf of our administrators and the board has kept us in good standing financially, and we are going to work to stay here.”

State aid accounts for about one fifth of the district’s nearly $58 million education fund, at roughly $10 million, and D209 receives around $2.7 million in aid from the federal government.

D209 managed to submit a balanced budget even though it lost some $3 million in state revenue – no easy task, Cole, the panel administrator, pointed out.

“Cutting $3 million is no small matter,” Cole said. “A lot of work has gone into it. I think the school board is to be congratulated for that. I think the administration is to be congratulated for that.”

Despite balancing its budget on paper, the district still faces financial challenges: it has about $105 million in debt and interest payments that need to be paid back over the next 15 years.

“Since we’ve been there, they’ve had a balanced budget every year, so from that perspective it’s good,” said Jim Popernik, the chairman of the FOP. “These are very difficult times … just having a balanced budget is pretty monumental, but their situation is still dire. It’s not improving because of how difficult the times are.”

The district’s education fund – the largest in the budget, and the one that covers educational expenses – is projected to run a surplus of about $5.5 million, but most of D209’s other funds are projected to be in the red.

The operations and maintenance fund is projected to run a deficit of just over $3 million. The debt service fund is expected to be some $900,000 in the hole. The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund is projected to be about $500,000 in the red. And the district anticipates the transportation fund will be some $250,000 behind.

In August, Romanier Polley was hired as D209’s new chief financial officer. Polley, who comes to the district with 13 years of experience including nine years at the Detroit Public Schools where she was the Director of General Ledger, will be paid an annual salary of $118,500.

Polley helped reduce the budget by about $1.2 million after coming on board, according to D209 Spokeswoman TaQuoya Kennedy.

FOP member Gary Schilling praised the work of Polley, and said, “The district is in good financial hands and I’m looking forward to what happens in the future.”