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U-46 Board receives new budget presentation

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 received a presentation on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 15.
  A public hearing will be held on Monday, Sept. 12 and a board vote is expected on Monday, Sept. 26.
  The budget has been brought into balance from a $4.2 million deficit reflected in the tentative budget presented in June with the budget now showing total revenues at $512.1 million ($18.1 million increase from FY2016) and expenditures at $511.4 million ($3.8 million increase). Revenues were at $509 million and expenditures at $513.2 million in the tentative budget.
  The largest portion on the revenue side is $300.8 million in property taxes, and the largest increase is nearly $10 million more expected in categorical payments from the state.
  The budget is heavily reliant on outside sources for funding with $195.3 million coming from General State Aid (GSA), categorical funds from the state and federal funding representing 38.1 percent of the budget. According the Illinois State Board of Education’s schools report card, the average school district relies on state and federal funding at 33.8 percent while U-46’s neighbors CUSD303 (10.8 percent) and CUSD300 (20.8 percent) are well below.
  On the expenditure side, the largest portion is $359.5 million for salaries and benefits which is $7.8 million more than FY2016. There are slight decreases expected in supplies and materials, capital outlay and non-capital equipment.
  Dale Burnidge, director of Financial Operations, said staffing standards were agreed upon by the board in January and reductions in force decisions were made in March, and now the district has “a good idea of some of our grant revenue and the number of positions we need so we’re able to recall those positions.”
  Property tax revenue is projected to be flat Burnidge said because of the abatement of last year’s levy. From the FY2016 budget to this budget the property tax revenues are expected to increase $1.3 million which he said was “due to the new construction that’s coming on the tax rolls, not due to any increase in the tax levy.”
  The 2016 tax levy will be determined in December, but Burnidge said “in this budget, I have not projected an increase.”
  Burnidge said “there’s been very little growth in the last five years” in property tax revenue due to a low inflation rate which is measured through the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is at 0.7 percent. Property tax revenues have grown from a low of $289.4 in FY2013 to the projected $300.8 million, an $11.4 million increase.
  The budget projects four categorical payments after budgeting for only three last year.
  The Illinois General Assembly passed a stopgap budget which will fully fund GSA, and Burnidge said “last year GSA was prorated at 92 percent which cost the district $9.8 million.”
  “Over the history of proration for (GSA), the district’s lost $48.1 million or about $1,200 per student,” Burnidge said.
  However, U-46 has seen big increases each year in GSA revenue. The FY2017 budget projects $119.4 million from GSA which is nearly double what it was in FY2013 when the district received $62.2 million through GSA, a $57.2 million increase equating $11.4 million each year.
  The FY2013 GSA amount was a decrease from $69.3 million in FY2012, but GSA funds have increased each year since then.
  Federal funds are expected to increase by $1.4 million, due to a Title I increase according to Burnidge. In FY2012 the district received $33.9 million, and this year the budget projects $37.2 million.
  On the expenditure side, contractual pay raises as well as more teachers for full-day kindergarten (FDK) and added social workers and administrative support at larger elementary schools will cost the district $6 million more on salaries, to $264 million, and $1.8 million in benefits, to $95.5 million.
  Benefits include a 5 percent increase in health insurance which has increased from $39.6 million in FY2013 to the $49.8 million projected in this budget.
  There was a slight decrease in FY2016 in health insurance costs. Burnidge said: “I’d say that’s due to an increase participation in wellness exams and good claims experience overall.”
  The district plans to spend $15.9 million for building capital projects, $5.6 million for computer equipment and $2.3 million for new buses.
  General education staffing is about 29 percent of the budget at $147.4 million (up from $132.1 million in FY2015 and $145.1 million in FY2016), major instructional programs around 23 percent at $117.3 million (up from $107.4 million in FY2015 and $113.2 million in FY2016) and operations about 15 percent at $78.7 million (up from $69.9 million FY2015 and $73.1 million in FY2016).
  The district projects a $240,948 in operating funds and a $775,017 surplus among all funds.
  The projected fund balance is expected to be $6.9 million less, in FY2016 but Burnidge said there are still transactions coming through. He said “we should be able to finalize” it before the FY2017 budget vote.
  Burnidge said because the district has “improved our budget document” it can be submitted for consideration for the Meritorious Budget Award (MBA).
  Thomas Lyons, financial coordinator, said some changes to the document include additional charts as well as expanding graphs to show comparisons with the state and other school districts. One of the charts shows the outstanding debt per resident, principal only, which shows each resident owed $1,404 to pay for U-46’s debt in 2015 which is projected to drop to $1,031 in 2019.
  Board member Jeanette Ward “wanted to give kudos on the fact that we’re planning to keep the levy flat” as well as for seeking the MBA, but she later added: I’m uncomfortable expanding the operations for (FDK), so how that will affect my vote I don’t know yet. I haven’t decided.”
  Ward asked if the graphs could expand to showing nationwide comparisons which Burnidge said “that’s certainly something we can look into.”
  Noting the chart showing dept per capita was principal only, board member Cody Holt asked “if we could get a graph of the principal plus the interest as well?” To which Lyons said, “we can add some of that information in.”
  Board member Phil Costello noted that the property tax burden of a $225,000 home is expected to decrease from $5,538 to $5,394 in 2019-20.
  “It’s incrementally going down which I think is a great step because we’ve all noted it’s gone the other way in the last few years, and this is really a great trend,” Costello said.
  Costello also asked about the additional funding from the state expected with adding FDK district-wide which Burnidge said “next year, those student counts will get included in the formula for (GSA).”
  Board member Sue Kerr asked if the district expects to meet its goals of about 20 percent in reserves which Jeff King, chief Operation officer, said they would.



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