DeKALB – DeKalb District 428 is preparing to have a nearly $3.5 million operating deficit in the coming school year, but that could change with some action from the state.
During the school board meeting Tuesday, school board members gave their first nod to a tentative $76.7 million financial plan, although Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Andrea Gorla stressed the budget figures can change.
“They’re projections and estimates, but to the best of our ability from the information we received from the state and federal government,” Gorla said.
In total, District 428’s budget includes close to $73.3 million in operating revenue and $76.7 million in operating expenditures. Board members will take a final vote on the budget in September.
Of the district’s deficit, $1.1 million stems from projects the district will fund using some of its $21 million construction grant. Absent these one-time expenses, the district’s actual operating deficit is nearly $2.4 million.
The deficit would be entirely wiped out, Gorla explained, if state officials funded general state aid at 100 percent. The state last year gave districts 88.7 percent of general state aid, the funding the state provides to offset the district’s basic $6,119 cost per student.
This year, District 428 officials have set their budget presuming the district will receive 85 percent of general state aid, or about $14.2 million. Every 1 percent of general state aid equals $167,000 for the district.
But the state could change the way it disperses general state aid under a bill that passed through the Senate earlier this year and is pending in the House, Gorla said. Senate Bill 16 would distribute financial aid from the state based on district need rather than equally across the state.
The bill would address some of the disparity between how much school districts spend per student. Gorla explained District 428 spends about $12,000 per student compared the state average of $11,500. The lowest amount any district in the state spends is $6,300 per student while the highest amount is $18,500.
“That senate bill will redistribute the wealth,” Gorla said. “That means some districts that are wealthier will not get as much money and districts that are more in need will get more.”
The bill would bode well for District 428, where property values have fallen for the past four years and 54 percent of students are classified as low income.
School Board President Tracy Williams encouraged people to contact state officials and vote in November because the state elections would be profoundly important to school districts.
“Without pressure, we just haven’t seen any change for a long time,” Williams said.
By the numbers
DeKalb School District 428’s 2014-15 budget
Revenues: $73.3 million
Expenditures: $76.7 million
Operating deficit: $3.46 million
Costs for construction projects: $1.1 million
Remaining deficit: $2.4 million
Amount in reserves: $20 million