During a regular meeting on April 9, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education voted 6-0 in favor of authorizing a 5-year Financial Plan for the district, which officials said is the first-time a plan had ever been created for D209. Board member Della Patterson abstained but did not say why.

District 209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez said that the board directed his administration to create a plan that guides the funding of the district’s recently-approved facilities master plan and that doesn’t increase taxes.

“You do have a very ambitious goal and I think that we have exceeded that expectation,” Rodriguez told board members on April 9.

The plan, district officials said, will ensure that additional funding goes to professional development, athletic programs, support for special education programs, the development of career academies at Proviso East and Proviso West, the implementation of the district’s 1:1 Technology Plan and more opportunities for students to recover credits during the school day, among other priorities.

At a meeting on March 12, Nicole Howard, D209’s assistant superintendent for academics and student and family services, said that the aforementioned funding areas are typically the first to get cut when school districts start tightening their belts. The 5-year plan, she said, allows for fiscal discipline without cutting those areas.

District officials have said that the plan is based on relatively stable student and staff enrollment projections through the 2023-24 school year. Student enrollment is projected to decline slightly at East and West, and across the district as a whole, while enrollment at Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) is projected to increase.

“This way, more students have a greater menu of options to pursue excellence within PTHS D209,” district officials explained in the Financial Plan’s executive summary.

Enrollment at East is projected to decrease 7 percent, from 1,561 next school year to 1,446 in four years, while the number of full-time equivalent positions at the school is projected to decrease by three, to 111, during the same time frame.

Enrollment at West is likewise projected to drop 7 percent, from 1,732 next school year to 1,1606 in 2023-24, while the number of full-time equivalent positions at the school is projected to decrease from 121 next year to 111 in 2023-24.

Enrollment at PMSA, meanwhile, is projected to increase 9.5 percent, from 877 next school year to 960 in four years, while the number of full-time equivalent positions at the school is projected to increase from 54 next school to 60 in 2023-24.

Total enrollment across the district is projected to decline 4 percent, from 4,169 next school year to 4,011 in four years, while the number of full-time equivalent positions in the district is projected to decrease from 289 to 282 in 2023-24.

Based on existing collective bargaining agreements with the district’s three unions, annual salary increases for faculty and all other staff are projected to grow at 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, for the next five fiscal years. Annual employee benefits are projected to increase by 5 percent for fiscal year 2020-21, and 6 percent for the following three fiscal years. The district’s payments to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund are projected to be “relatively flat,” officials said.

The Financial Plan’s “operational goals’ are to manage resources at the district based on class size target ratios of 30:1 at PMSA and 25:1 at East and West.

According to the plan, the district is on track to accumulate approximately $77 million for capital improvement projects by the end of fiscal year 2024. An additional $25 million in bonding capacity could be possibly by fiscal year 2025, officials said.

The plan also projects annual fund balance surpluses ranging between $4 million and $6 million through fiscal year 2024, when the year-end balance is projected to be around $32.3 million — 36 percent of expenditures for that year.

The Financial Oversight Panel (FOP), a state-appointed advisory body that has overseen the district’s finances since 2009, had recommended that the school board implement the 5-year Financial Plan if it ever wanted the FOP to dissolve.

During the April 9 meeting, board member Sam Valtierrez asked Rodriguez if the FOP would exit the district now that the 5-year Financial Plan is in place.

“Are we done with the FOP?” Valtierrez asked.

“We had a conversation with the FOP at the last meeting, which is to be continued,” Rodriguez said on April 9, adding that the FOP is “impressed” with the plan and with the financial controls the district has in place.

“We did have conversations about a limited partnership,” Rodriguez said. “Perhaps we can sit down with the two boards and [think about] where we go from here. [The FOP] is interested in having the conversation with us about how the structure will look like in the future.”

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