The Board of Education voted unanimously to amend and adopt its tentative budget for the 2013 fiscal year at its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15. The proposed budget consists of $18,667,894 in expenditures—a 5.73 percent increase from 2012—and $18,536,666 in projected revenues, leaving a deficit of $131,228.
Supt. Steve Stein said the budget's revenue projections might be slightly overstated, in part because the district won't be receiving the full amount of funding it's supposed to from the state.
"Our general state aid is being prorated. Last year, it was prorated at 95 percent, this year it's being prorated at 89 percent," Stein said. "That is looking like it's going to translate into about a $143,000 loss for us in general state aid."
Before approving the tentative budget for public review, the board voted to amend it by adding three line items of contingency funds, which are set aside in the budget but cannot be spent until the board approves their use for specific projects or purchases. One addition was a $30,000 contingency for the district's maintenance truck, which also serves as a snow plow during the winter. Board President Patrick Markham urged the board to add the contingency for the truck because the district couldn't afford to be caught without a working plow during an inevitable snowfall.
"I don't think we can go without putting it in as a contingency, because we have to have the money there should it be needed," Markham said.
The other two new items were reallocated from the district's budgeted computer tech supplies and equipment funds, which were meant to finance the creation of wireless network infrastructure in school buildings. The proposed computer tech budget originally included a $62,747 increase from 2012's expenditures. The board divided that increase to create a $20,000 contingency for potential fee reductions or rebates and a $20,000 contingency for the original computer expenses, with the rest remaining in the budget as a dedicated increase to the computer tech fund.
Markham claimed the wireless overhaul wasn't an immediate need for the district and suggested the board reallocate those funds in order to create a contingency for potential fee reductions or rebates for families in the district while still leaving some contingency funds for technology improvements.
"There's a difference between wants and needs," Markham said. "And I think a need, in my opinion, is to relieve the community of any fees that we can first, and then go forward with quality, or perceived improvement in quality of our computer department."
Board Member Katherine Moore expressed some skepticism about allotting money for fee reductions or rebates while the district is operating at a deficit.
"I don't have a problem with us discussing it, I have a problem with us putting it in the budget," Moore said. "It's not like we're even. It's not like we're making money. Why would we give away money that we don't have?"
However, Moore agreed to the idea of allocating money for fee reductions as a contingency rather than dedicated, guaranteed funds, and the motion to adopt the tentative budget passed with a unanimous vote.
The proposed budget also included a $110,000 allotment for food purchases, which is a $26,658 increase from the 2012 expenditures, despite the district having joined the Northern Illinois Independent Purchasing Cooperative this year. Stein said that increase was an attempt on the district's part to be proactive about increases in food prices, as well as new government regulations requiring the district to provide more fruits and vegetables, which could cost more than other foods. According to Stein, the district will ultimately have to wait and see whether joining the food cooperative was in its best interests.
"We need to look at and compare, for lack of a better term, apples to apples, and look at what we would have paid if we would have stayed with GFS this year, versus what we did actually pay in the cooperative, and see if those two things are equal or if we're getting any value out of that," Stein said.
There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget on Sept. 19, after which the board will vote to approve a final version for the 2013 fiscal year.
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