SYCAMORE – Not a single public comment was made during the Sycamore School District 427 Board meeting before officials passed its fiscal 2019 budget.
When board President Jim Dombek asked whether anyone wanted to speak or submit any written statements to the board about the proposed budget, he was met with silence from the audience that included the few usual school officials in attendance during the board meeting Tuesday night.
“I think it’s the weather,” Dombek said, referencing the heavy storms that passed through DeKalb County on Tuesday evening.
For the first time in years, District 427 passed a balanced budget that did not require a deficit reduction plan.
Superintendent Kathy Countryman said she’s glad to have a balanced budget again after passing a balanced budget last fiscal year. She said passage of another such budget is a tribute to district staff’s efforts.
“We feel like we’re still offering great opportunities to our kids and being financially responsible to our taxpayers,” Countryman said.
Nicole Stuckert, chief financial officer for District 427, said she wouldn’t repeat her presentation Tuesday, but she said during the district’s Aug. 28 meeting it’s the first time in at least a decade the district hasn’t had to do deficit reductions to its budget. She had said the district began a three-year deficit reduction plan in fiscal 2016 to help reduce expenses by about $6 million to get to a balanced budget.
District officials had said one of the main reasons the district was hemorrhaging money previously included the housing decline in 2008. Dombek had said the spending problem worsened when the district was not receiving money from the state as fast as it would’ve liked and the district realized it couldn’t afford to continue deficit spending while state funding remained uncertain.
Stuckert said the district might get a little more money with the evidence-based funding model Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law in 2017, through which the state sends more resources to districts with under-resourced students.
District 427 was initially projected to receive additional revenue from the state’s new tier system that will go into the general fund, but Stuckert had said the added funds would not be enough to amend the fiscal 2019 budget at this point. She had said the district is tentatively getting between $250,000 and $300,000.
“We haven’t received any of that tiered amount as of yet,” Stuckert said.
Stuckert had said district expenses have remained flat year-over-year otherwise, with the exception of teacher pay raises coming from the new contract that District 427 and its teachers union agreed to about two months ago.