While passing a budget that’s comfortably in the black at their Sept. 27 meeting, Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 school board members and administrators are seeing red over delayed state funding that’s forcing them to pull from their reserve funds to maintain the district’s cash flow.
At the meeting, the school board approved loans of $1.88 million and $50,700 from their working cash fund to their education and IMRF funds, respectively. The education fund is the district’s day-to-day operating fund, which pays for such items as teacher salaries. The IMRF, or Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, is a pension plan for district employees.
Board President James Landahl explained that the loans were meant to cover gaps in funding due to the state’s budget crisis, which is leaving school districts without a large portion of their regular revenues. Landahl said the district was fortunate to have the ability to make up for this lack of funding with its own reserves.
“It’s a credit to our finance department that we have the funds to carry us through,” he said. “We’re in a better position than many other districts in the area.”
Superintendent Thomas Hurlburt said the money loaned out from the working cash fund would be returned once the district receives its levy from the state, expected to be about $4.8 million this year. However, Hurlburt said, until that happens the district will lose thousands of dollars in interest the nearly $2 million would have earned if it had stayed in the working cash fund.
He also noted that loan amounts were determined based on the assumption the levy would come in by December. If state funding is further delayed, he said, the district would either have to borrow more from working cash or take out short-term loans.
“It would not be a good financial situation for the district,” he said.
As for the budget itself, the district is in a comfortable financial position for the 2007-08 school year. On paper, the budget technically shows a deficit of $5.1 million for this year, due to a high increase in expenditures for the district’s planned construction projects at Brook Park and S.E. Gross schools. Hurlburt explained the deficit is canceled out by last year’s surplus of more than $8 million, half of which came from the sale of bonds by the district to pay for the construction projects. Overall, the district is estimated to end the year with more than $2 million in surplus.
“We let the fund balance accrue, knowing we would have the expense of these larger projects,” Hurlburt said.
Beyond building costs, other areas of the budget also saw increases. This year’s operations and maintenance budget is $1.3 million, up more than $500,000 from last year’s budgeted $774,000. Hurlburt said the increases were necessary to begin repairing windows, as well as to continue making life safety improvements at both schools. Hurlburt said these improvements would include addressing ventilation issues, repairing door frames, widening stairwells and, most notably, adding an exit to the street in the backstage area of the S.E. Gross auditorium, to allow for faster evacuations in an emergency.
In addition, the education fund was increased by about 6 percent, from $6.9 million to $7.3 million. Hurlburt said this was mainly due to increased salary and benefit costs, as well as additional teaching positions at both schools. He also added that the district was able to again increase its funds for new textbooks and technology, pushing that fund up by another $12,000.