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District 428 aims to close $2.7 million budget deficit

DeKALB – After the state legislature passed a budget that will pay school districts 89 percent of what they should receive in state aid, DeKalb School District 428 still is looking for a way to close its $2.7 million budget deficit.

The latest revisions to the 2013-14 budget, which the district’s Board of Education approved for public review on Aug. 6, account for an additional $692,493 in state aid, because the district had previously projected the state to further cut its aid rate to 83 percent – a move the state didn’t make. However, an assortment of additional expenditures all but erased the boost in funds.

The district now expects to spend $115,000 on fees related to the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect Jan. 1, as well as an additional $500,000 that will go toward private placement tuition for special education students.

Andrea Gorla, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and finance, said that even though the state has committed to paying 89 percent, it hasn’t always worked out in the past.

“We’re pretty much betting on the full 89 percent,” Gorla said. “So if they do something different, that just tips us further upside down.”

In the meantime, the district has not had to file a deficit reduction plan because it still has a projected fund balance of $24.6 million, which includes the $21 million construction grant that the district received in 2011.

The board tasked its Finance and Facility Advisory Committee, which is composed of community members and district staff, with helping to find ways to close the gap, but that hasn’t been an easy task.

“That’s the $2.7 million question,” School Board President Tom Matya said. “It’s a challenge not only for us, but for school districts across the state. We have to hope that there’s a turnaround with the state and local economy.”

Further budget implications could come from the district’s teachers, who still are in negotiations with the district to work out a new contract. Under the current budget, teacher’s salaries and benefits together account for three quarters of all expenditures.

“There’s not a lot of low-hanging fruits, because we’ve already made reductions in staff throughout the district,” Gorla said. “Anything else would be most impactful on the students, so we’ve refrained from doing that right now.”

The Board of Education will make its final vote on the budget Sept. 17.

D-428’s proposed 2013-14 budget by the numbers

Projected revenue: $69,486,195

Projected expenditures: $72,233,485

Projected deficit: $2,747,290

Projected fund balance (including construction grant) for end of 2013-14: $21,284,598

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