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Timeline established for new Dist. U-46 budget


By Seth Hancock
  The Fiscal Year 2020 budget in School District U-46 is expected to be presented to the Board of Education at its upcoming meeting on Monday, Aug. 12.
  The board approved of a resolution for displaying the budget as well as setting the public hearing date at its July 15 meeting. The vote was 4-0 with board members John Devereux, Veronica Noland and Donna Smith absent.
  The budget will go on public display on Aug. 13, a public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 9 and a final vote by the board is planned for Sept. 23.
  A tentative budget was presented in June which showed that the district plans to continue hiking taxes and spending despite continued enrollment declines and continued poor academic results according to the annual report card by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
  The tentative budget showed expenditures at $579.7 million, up 3.9 percent or $21.6 million from $558.1 million, and revenue at $581 million, up 3.6 percent or $19.9 million from $561.1 million. It’s larger than the $559.1 million in expenditures and $564.3 million in revenue that was projected for FY2020 in the district’s FY2019 budget.
  U-46 is planning to again increase the property tax levy by the maximum amount allowed under law, which is 1.9 percent. Property tax revenue has increased from $302.5 million in 2013 to $312.7 million in 2018 according to the district’s property tax extension history.
  Year over year, the district is expecting an additional $5 million from the state under the “evidence-based” funding formula which U-46 claims is a conservative estimate.
  “We kind of kept our expectations for increases from the state kind of low,” claimed Dale Burnidge, director of financial operations. “We were only using about $5 million a year from the evidence-based funding going forward.”
  To help pay for the “evidence-based” funding formula, that state hiked personal income tax rates by 32 percent and the corporate tax rate by 33.3 percent, increases lobbied for by U-46 and CEO Tony Sanders.
  Illinois is currently $160.7 billion in debt according to usdebtclock.org, it is ranked the worst in the nation for financial health according to George Mason University’s Mercatus Center’s annual ranking, the population has continued to decline and Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed 21 new tax and fee hikes with more being proposed.
  On the enrollment side, U-46 saw its fourth straight year of declines in 2018-2019 as it lost 633 students from the previous year to fall to 38,572 total. U-46 has lost 1,915 total students since 2014’s enrollment of 40,487 but spending has increased nearly $100 million during that time which is over $70 million faster than the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.
  Using the FY2019 budget projections and ISBE numbers, if the district’s forecasts are realized there will have been a 13.1 percent drop in enrollment from 2012 to the 2021-22 school year while costs are expected to rise by 36.3 percent over the same period.
  Despite the population loss, U-46 is planning to hire 54 new positions this upcoming school year under the tentative budget.
  Also to occur at the Aug. 12 meeting is a vote on the FY2020 Northern Kane County Regional Vocational System budget, a joint-budget between four school districts. The budget shows revenues and expenditures both at $1.8 million with a beginning and ending fund balance of $628,842.
  The budget is funded through Illinois and federal government grants.

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