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District 428 reduces budget deficit

DeKALB – DeKalb School District 428 plans to save $1.2 million this year thanks to savings in the new teachers union contract and a decline in insurance premiums.

The savings were detailed to school board members Tuesday before they unanimously approved the 2013-14 budget, which began in July. The revised budget narrowed the district's $2.7 million budget deficit to about $1.5 million.

"To have that down to a $1.5 million deficit in today's world is no small feat," said Tracy Williams, the board's vice president.

The district's new contract with its teachers' union, the DeKalb Classroom Teachers' Association, included a hard freeze on teacher salaries for the fiscal year. That resulted in a savings of $752,000 for the district.

"We want to make sure that we're appreciative to our teachers for doing that," board President Tom Matya said.

Additionally, a 4.8 percent decrease in health insurance premiums in the district added another $511,000 in savings.

However, since the the board last reviewed the proposed 2013-14 budget at its Aug. 6 meeting, state funding projections had decreased slightly to work against the district's cost-saving measures. Now, instead of the full 89 percent that the district had expected to receive for the year, it expects to receive 88.7 percent – a loss of about $39,000.

"Yet again the state changed our general state aid," said Andrea Gorla, the assistant superintendent for business and finance. "... This could be a moving target, but at this time this is the best [number] that we have."

Illinois has been prorating general state aid to schools for years as it struggles to pay its own bills. Gorla said that if the state paid District 428 the full 100 percent – an increase of about $1.5 million – the district would be in the black.

The district plans to pull from its operating fund balance to cover its deficit. Including the $21 million construction grant that it received in 2011, the district projects to have $22.5 million remaining in its operating fund at the end of fiscal 2014.

Because the district has more than three times the amount of its deficit available in its operating fund, it doesn't have to submit a budget reduction plan to the state.

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