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District 428 looking at $3.5M deficit for 2014-15

Published: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 10:52 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 8:37 a.m. CST

DeKALB – The DeKalb School District 428 is projecting a $3.5 million deficit for the 2014-15 school year, but that could change depending on the state.

The deficit is based on Gov. Pat Quinn lowering the amount of general state aid – the funding that offsets the basic cost to educate students – to 85 percent. If the state funded aid at 85 percent, District 428 officials expect the district would have a $2.5 million shortfall.

Andrea Gorla, the assistant superintendent of business and finance explained the district is being conservative despite the possibility that Quinn’s budget could fully fund general state aid by keeping the state’s income tax increase in place.

“What we support is maintaining the tax rate for them to fully fund general state aid,” Gorla said.

The tax rate for individuals is supposed to drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent Jan. 1. The drop would reduce state revenue by $1.8 billion. Democratic lawmakers are trying to line up the 60 votes it would take to make the tax increase permanent.

Of District 428’s projected deficit, $2.4 million is in operating expenses from its $76 million budget. A little more than $1 million of the deficit is from one-time costs to put a pre-kindergarten and early childhood education center in Huntley Middle School, renovating Tyler Elementary School and launching a pilot technology program in Lincoln Elementary School and eighth-grade classrooms, which will be funded with the district’s $21 million construction grant. Meaning, if the state fully funded state aid, it would completely eliminate the district’s operating deficit, Gorla said.

Every one percent of state aid costs the district $168,000, Gorla told District 428 board members at their meeting Tuesday. The board did not take any action. The district typically acts on its budget in October.

School board President Tracy Williams said the district looks more at how it spends because it has no control over what happens in Springfield regarding the tax increase.

“If it improves, it makes our lives easier,” Williams said. “If not, we’re prepared to serve the students.”

State aid reductions have cost the district $3.4 million since the 2011-12 school year. DeKalb School officials project they lost $1.56 million in the current school year with the state funding prorated at 88.7 percent. In the 2012-13school year when state aid was funded at 89 percent, officials said the district lost $1.36 million.

For the current school year, the district is projecting a $3 million operating deficit.

The projected deficit budget for 2014-15 would leave the district with $20 million in its operating fund balance at the end of the school year, nearly $3.5 million less than what it is projected to have at the end of the current school year.

“That is from intentionally spending down the grant dollars,” Gorla said.

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