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D-427 officials take aim at reducing deficits

SYCAMORE – Even with rising revenues, Sycamore School District 427 officials still need to control their deficit, which increased by about $1 million this year. 

School board members unanimously approved the final budget for the district Aug. 27, which showed an estimated deficit of $2.6 million. Last year, District 427 had an overall deficit of $1.6 million. The district has seven schools in Sycamore serving about 3,766 students from kindergarten through high school.

Nicole Stuckert, the district’s director of financial services, said increased health insurance costs for school employees and revenues not received from the state contributed to the deficit this year. 

District officials plan to rein in the deficit spending by closely monitoring the budgets for each building in January and using financial projections with the help of PMA Financial Services. 

“Our board and our administration work well together,” Stuckert said. “We know changes need to be made, but not at the cost of the students.”

If the district received 100 percent of the aid it is owed by the state, it would be closer to having a balanced budget, she said. The district should receive about $1,100 a student from the state, but the state has prorated that amount to 88.7 percent, which gives the district $976 a student, Stuckert said. 

The overall deficit is not as high as the deficit for the school’s operational funds, which is at $4.2 million this year. Operational funds are used for salaries, school operations and transportation.

Stuckert said the $6.5 million fund balance, or savings, for the schools’ non-operational funds reduces the overall deficit for the district. The non-operational funds include capital projects and debt service funds. 

The deficit spending is not at a point where the district must file a deficit reduction plan with the Illinois State Board of Education, however. When a school district’s operating fund balance reserves are less than three times the deficit, they are required to develop a reduction plan.

Although deficit spending has increased, so has revenue. With $52.6 million in overall revenue, the school district expects about a $4.6 million increase from last year.  

The improving housing market in Sycamore has helped with the revenue, as the district receives tax payments any time a new home is started, Stuckert said. More homes have cropped up in subdivisions such as Sycamore Creek and Reston Ponds. 

“We use our budget as a road map and we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing,” Stuckert said. 

School board member Diane Tyrrell declined to comment.

Efforts to reach board President Jim Dombek were unsuccessful.

By the numbers

Sycamore School District 427 fiscal 2014 budget

Overall revenue: $52.6 million

Overall expenses: $55.2 million

Overall fund balance: $22.5 million

Overall deficit: $2.6 million 

Sycamore School District 427 fiscal 2013 budget

Overall revenue: $47.6 million

Overall expenses: $49.2 million

Overall fund balance: $26.3 million

Overall deficit: $1.6 million 

Source: Sycamore School District 427

Note: Fiscal years begin July 1 and end June 30 each year.

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