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D-427 approves budget; financial woes looming

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 10:42 p.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – The Sycamore School District 427 board approved its budget for this school year Tuesday, while acknowledging that by the next school year, the district’s cash balance may be in the negative.

The district’s budget for this school year includes a $2.9 million deficit in its education fund and a $3.1 million deficit in its capital project fund.

The district will continue to use reserves to cover its deficits. However, Nicole Stuckert, district director of financial services, said if revenues do not improve, the district may have to file a deficit spending plan – a three-year plan showing how the district will deal with the deficit – with the state as early as next school year.

Stuckert said the district cannot make cuts to get itself out of a deficit, however, for the next fiscal year, instructional expenditures will be examined during the planning process, as salaries and benefits for personnel make up 73 percent of the district’s costs. Stuckert said the deficit is a revenue problem, but she expects it to improve slowly in the future. 

She said she is expecting more information on the district’s budgeting future when PMA Financial Network, a financial consultant, meets with school leaders in October.

“Just as it took the state and local economy five years to get where it is, it will take at least that to recoup from it,” Stuckert said. “We cannot cut ourselves out of a deficit.”

Stuckert said teachers are on their second year of a four-year contract, which means a $560,000 increase on this year’s budget. Support staff will begin the first year on their newest contract, which constitutes a $61,000 increase in the budget, and custodians are in the second of four years on their contract, which means a $31,000 increase for this year’s budget, Stuckert said.

“We will look at personnel costs,” Stuckert said. “We will look at how we utilize instruction.”

Board President Jim Dombek said the projected fiscal future for the school district is “not a pleasant place to be,” and cited a slide in state funding and a lack of attention from the state as major issues. He said he hasn’t seen the state shirking its constitutional responsibilities as it is now, like not providing a free public education for every individual in the state, he said.

“It’s disappointing to see future predictions that show unless the state does something to increase its part of the funding, we are going to be faced with some dire consequences here that could result in a loss of programming or other areas,” Dombek said. “We can hope the state comes through, as we’ve made as many cuts as we can without really affecting programs too deeply. More cuts would have an effect on our ability to serve the district and its constituents.”

Shortfalls

District 427’s budget for this school year shows a $2.9 million deficit in its educational fund and a $3.1 million deficit in its capital spending fund. The deficits will be covered with reserve funds.

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