District 64’s upcoming budget aims to spend more to save money in long run

Residents can review the Park Ridge-Niles District 64 online or by visiting the district’s administrative office, above.

By Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle

The Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board of Education voted unanimously to release the preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The released budget is essentially the first draft. Over the next three regular meetings, the board will refine it and update it, and residents will have a chance to give their input during the August meeting. So while the budget currently has a deficit, that may not be the case before the final version goes to the Illinois State Board of Education in late September.

According to the tentative budget summery for Fiscal Year 2017-2018, the district plans to spend a total of $62,798,851 on general education expenses, $6,004,555 on operations and maintenance, $3,244,782 on transportation, a total of $2,396,400 on employee retirement costs, 6 78,626 on capital projects and a total of $8,330,276 to cover various capital project debts. That means that the district will be spending 3.02 percent more on education than last year, 1.49 percent more on operations and maintenance, 18.42 percent more on transportation, and nearly 91 percent less on capital projects.

Looking at the revenue for the general education expenses, district is expecting to get a total of $50,132,000 in property taxes – less than the $50,814,300 it got last year. However, it is expected to get more in other sources, including in-lieu personal property replacement tax, tuition, fees and investment earnings. Together, this means that it expects to get more revenue from local sources than last year – %55,394,600 as opposed to last year’s $4,983,534

The total federal aid is expected to decrease from $1,805,500 to $1,644,600. The state aid is expected to decrease as well – from $3,652,420 to $3,125,590 – but that number comes with a caveat. During the June 26 meeting, it wasn’t clear whether Illinois General Assembly would pass the budget at all. Luann Kolstad, the district’s Chief School Business Official told the board that the state already owes District 64 $1.73 million dollars. The schools could endure – at least for the time time being.

“We’re incredibly fortunate that we have some working cash money and fund balance,” she said. “If the state continues in this way – that number [of money the state owes the district] has grown dramatically since the last time we looked at it.”

Since then, the budget was passed after both houses of the General Assembly overrode governor Bruce Rauner’s veto – but that budget contained language that would only release school funding if the state passed an “evidence-based funding model.” There are two versions of the formula that have been proposed – state senator Andy Manar’s (D-Bunker Hill)’s Senate Bill 1 and state senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) bill. The former has been passed by both chambers of the General Assembly, but it hasn’t been sent to Rauner’s desk. The later hasn’t been voted on at all. If either version passed, the amount of money the district gets would most likely change.

Overall, the education fund is expected to have $60,164,790 in revenue – $276,664 less than last fiscal year. Operations and maintenance fund would get $6,420,813 – $150,050 more than last year. The transportation fund would get $4,443,720 – $1,798,720 more than last year.

Looking at the budget as a whole, the district is expected to end the next fiscal year with a $6,619,205 deficit.

Kolstad explained that there were two major reasons for the jump in education fund spending – the retirement incentive for the teachers and new food service.

Board president Anthony Borrelli said that the retirement incentives – which account for $744,000 in the budget – will be good for the district on the long run.

“This budget increased expenses that will be negated in years to come, “ he said. “If we can get through this year, we should be above water.”

Kolstad said that eight employees already chose to take advantage of the incentive, and she expects more next year.

Board member Rick Biagi, one of the four board members who were elected in April, wondered how board members could make changes to the budget. Borelli responded that board members would have opportunity to give input at every meeting before the final version of the budget is passed.

“We will be reviewing budget in every meeting,” he said. “If there’s a line item where we have the consensus, we will be directing [the staff] to change it.”

Kolstad emphasized that many numbers will change as the 2016-2017 fiscal year ends and the district has better idea how much money there is left, as well as once the district gets a better idea how many teachers and other staff members will be hired for the 2017-2018 school year.

Now that the board has released the budget, residents can look at it for themselves either on the district website or by visiting the district’s administrative offices during its regular business hours. They can give their input during a public hearing, which will be held before the regularly scheduled Aug. 28 board meeting at 6:45 p.m., at Lincoln Middle School.

According to Kolstad, the board is expected to approve the final version of the budget during the Sept. 25 meeting.

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