The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Latest U-46 budget data hikes income, spending
By Seth Hancock
While School District U-46 continues to expect enrollment declines it still plans on hiking spending by $40.2 million while expecting $52 million more in revenue as the proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget was presented to the Board of Education on Monday, Aug. 20.
The budget sets total revenue at $561.1 million, up from $509.1 million last year, and expenditures at $558.1 million, up from $517.9 million. Those numbers are up from a tentative budget presented in June that had total revenue at $546.6 million and total expenditures at $534.6 million.
A public hearing is set for Sept. 10 and the board is expected to vote on the budget on Sept. 24.
The district expects both expenditures and revenues to annually increase with a projected $586.5 million in revenues (4.5 percent increase from FY2019) and $585.9 million in expenditures (5 percent increase) by 2021-22.
For this current school year, U-46 expects a 1.9 percent decrease in enrollment from 38,875 to 38,135 this year. The budget forecasts show continued declines of 2.3 percent (37,243) in 2019-20, 2.3 percent (36,405) in 2020-21 and 2.9 percent (35,345) in 2021-2022.
With a longer-term view from Illinois State Board of Education data, if the forecasts come true there would be a 13.1 percent enrollment decline from 40,687 students in 2012 while expenditures would increase by 36.3 percent from the $430 million spent in FY2012.
Salaries and benefits make up the largest expenditure item at $389.3 million, up $21.9 million from $367.4 million.
Dale Burnidge, director of financial operations, said: “We’ve added 54 new employees which include middle school counselors, assistant principals in the larger elementary schools, instructional coaches and additional behavioral specialists.”
The district expects a 5 percent increase in health insurance costs and it plans on spending $20 million on building capital projects, $7.5 million on computer equipment and $5.7 million on replacing 74 buses.
On the revenue side, property taxes make up the largest portion which Burnidge called the “most stable source of revenue.” Property tax revenue is expected at $303.8 million, up from $303.4 million.
The district is allowed to increase the property tax levy by the inflation rate, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), plus new construction revenue. The inflation rate has increased by 2.1 percent the past two years according to Burnidge, and the district projects a 2.5 percent CPI in the near future.
The tax levy will be determined in December and the district plans to use the abatement process for the fourth straight year.
Burnidge said “property tax revenue is projected to be flat due to increasing the abatement for the current year growth of $5.4 million. In addition to the prior year abatement of $3.9 million, the total abatement will be $9.3 million.”
The district expects to receive $174.5 million from the state’s so-called “evidence based” funding formula, up from $120.7 million last year. U-46 also expects four categorical payments from the state.
Jeanette Ward, who voted against last year’s budget, was the only board member in attendance (Phil Costello was absent at the meeting) to offer her opinion on the budget. She noted that the district followed the direction of the board’s majority, but she disagreed with the majority.
“The budget includes 54 new positions, and I think we should be paying down the debt and reducing property taxes,” Ward said. “I don’t support expanding operations while enrollment is declining as it’s projected to. There’s also the issue of pensions and potential cost shift to the district, which the executive summary of the budget document admits is a possibility.”
Ward added: “At the state level, the Illinois budget was presented to voters as balanced but a different, more truthful story was presented to bond investors. There is a ‘structural imbalance,’ which means deficit, in this year’s Illinois budget of at least $1.2 billion. There is $129 billion in unfunded pension liability. This imbalance at the state level cannot continue forever. Eventually there will be stark consequences.”
The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) issued a report in the middle of this month to possible bond buyers which did admit to the $1.2 billion deficit. The GOMB report also states: “The State provides no assurances as to how, when or in what form this structural deficit might be addressed.”
A further view on Illinois’s fiscal health comes from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center which lists Illinois as 49th in its annual ranking of states by fiscal health. Illinois was 47th last year.
The Mercatus summary on Illinois states: “On the basis of its fiscal solvency in five separate categories, Illinois is ranked 49th among the US states for its fiscal health. Illinois performs poorly on both a short- and long-run basis. The state has between 52 percent and 134 percent of the cash needed to cover short-term obligations. Revenues cover 96 percent of expenses, and overall net position declined by $28 per capita in FY 2015. On a long-run basis, a net asset ratio of −2.77 points to Illinois’ heavy reliance on debt. Long-term liabilities are 317 percent of total assets, or $12,118 per capita. On a guaranteed-to-be-paid basis, unfunded pension obligations are $344.85 billion, or 54 percent of state personal income. OPEB (other post-employment benefits) is 8 percent of state personal income.”
The current debt in Illinois is $148.8 billion according to usdebtclock.org.