Thanks to referendum cash, D95 budget in the black

Plans to monitor special ed costs

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The Brookfield-LaGrange Park Schools District 95 board approved a tentative budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year at its meeting Aug. 10, one showing an overall fund balance of almost $500,000, thanks to a referendum passed this spring, after years of deficit spending.

Due to the referendum, which raised the district's education fund tax rate by 47 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value, projected revenues for next year are expected to increase by approximately $1 million, going from $8.2 million to $9.3 million. Expenditures are projected at about $8.8 million, similar to previous years. This puts the district in a much stronger financial situation than last year, when there was an overall budget deficit of more than $700,000.

At the meeting, Superintendent Thomas Hurlburt said the added funds from the referendum have allowed the district to increase spending for many areas, including technology, textbooks, the enrichment program and other district improvements.

Hurlburt noted that the district especially concentrated on the technology and textbooks, with funding for those areas increasing 285 percent and 267 percent, respectively. These percentages don't necessarily represent large amounts of money -for example, only $15,000 was added to the budget for new textbooks-but they illustrate how little the district has been able to spend in these areas prior to the referendum.

"We're not out large amounts of money, it's just that in the past few years we haven't been investing in these areas," board member Thomas Powers said.

Hurlburt said the increases would allow the district to purchase new materials at both schools, such as an iBook cart for one of the schools and a new series of social studies textbooks for S.E. Gross Middle School.

"We have social studies books that are seven, eight, nine years old," Hurlburt said in a separate interview. "When a textbook stops at Jimmy Carter, that's not good. We want to make sure students have the best possible resources and materials."

In addition to passing the tentative budget, the board also briefly discussed plans to monitor special education funding more closely in the coming year. Hurlburt said the district would compile monthly expenditure and revenue reports for the fund in order to prevent a similar shock from this past year, when the district suddenly found itself more than $100,000 over budget in the special education program due to unexpected costs.

"Eventually, we will be doing this for every line item in the budget," Hurlburt said. "We're starting with special education because of the way it impacted the budget last year. We need to make sure we have the finances in place to best provide for our students."

The district will approve its final budget on Sept. 28 after a public hearing scheduled for that same night. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at S.E. Gross Middle School, 3524 Maple Ave., Brookfield.

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