This time around, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Angie Smith is projecting a $960,000 operating fund surplus. On Monday, the board voted to place the proposed $242 million 2013-14 budget on 30-day public display.
In a press release, Director of Community Relations Tom Hernandez said this is the first time anticipated revenues have exceeded projected expenditures since the recession hit five years ago.
"The good news is due mainly to four years of fiscal austerity and significant budget cuts made to counter the ongoing effects of a weakened economy and 10 years of unprecedented growth," he said in the release. Since 2009, the district has cut $42 million in operating expenses, mostly by eliminating about 345 full-time teaching, support staff and administrative positions.
Highlights of the proposed budget:
- Anticipated revenues of $242.9 million, up $7.4 million, or 3 percent, from last year
- Projected expenditures of $242, up $4.6 million, or 1.9 percent, from last year
- implementation of the new Common Core State Standards Curriclum
- the purchase of 1,000 laptops needed for the new state standardized assessment, which must be taken online
- Raises of 2-3 percent for administrators and non-union staff
- A 1.5 percent raise for teachers, per their contact
- A 2.2 percent raise for support staff, per their contract
- Budgeting $1 million as contingency in case of enrollment changes and special education needs, as is routinely done
- increased benefits costs due to the Affordable Care Act.
Smith said the district's improved financial outlook depends on whether the state follows through on its promises, including maintaining current levels of transportation funding.
The state has already dropped its general state aid (GSA) promise to 88.7 percent, “and my fear is that it could go even lower next spring,” Smith said. To counteract another possible drop in GSA, Smith said she budgeted the figure at 87.5 percent.
“Unfortunately, we still have to be very careful about state funding, and there will always be more bumps in the road that we can’t anticipate,” Smith said in a release.
Hernandez said the surplus — which depends on whether the state meets its education funding obligations — leaves the board with another issue to discuss: How much to leave in the district's reserve. Currently, District 202 has about 38 days' worth of funding on hand; nearby school districts have enough to cover between 73 and 215 days of operations.
The proposed budget includes adding $1 million to the fund balances, and Smith recommended that, in the short term, the district aim to keep enough in the reserve to cover 60 days of operations.
“We have to continue to control our expenses and budget very carefully, but it looks like things are starting to stabilize, and the future looks a little bit brighter,” Smith said.
The 2013-14 budget will be placed on 30-day display starting Aug. 21 and will be posted on the District 202 website. The board is slated to vote on the budget at its Sept. 23 meeting.
Graduation fee hike OK'd
Graduating will get a little more expensive for District 202 students.
The board on Monday approved increasing the graduation fee from $32 to $40.
According to Hernandez, the reason for the increase is simple: "We're losing money on [graduation]," he said, estimating it costs District 202 $36.75 per graduate, including the cost of the cap and gown, diploma, tassel and diploma cover.
The additional funds will help pay for other graduation-related costs, including flowers, security and breakfast for graduates, Hernandez said.
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