Bolstered by the final year of tax revenues generated by a successful referendum in 2006, Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 is projecting a healthy surplus in its education fund for the 2009-10 school year.
The district’s school board on Aug. 6 voted to approve the preliminary budget, which is available for viewing at the district office and libraries in Brookfield and LaGrange Park, for next year. The board will vote on the final budget in September, but Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said that the numbers are unlikely to change dramatically.
“There won’t be major amendment,” Kuzniewski said. “This budget is not going to adjust by millions.”
Revenues are expected to outpace expenditures in the coming school year by $514,000 in the district’s education fund, which includes all day-to-day operating expenses such as teacher salaries and benefits.
The district is projecting a 17.3 percent increase in revenues for the education fund, driven by three main sources. The first is an estimated $1.1 million increase in local property tax revenue, the district’s final bite out of the referendum apple, which allowed the district to levy taxes at the maximum amount allowed.
Beginning next year, the district’s levy will be governed by the state’s tax cap legislation, which limits annual increases to 5 percent or the consumer price index (CPI) , whichever is less. Next year’s levy will be limited to the CPI – tagged at just 0.1 percent.
The district will also be getting a one-time boost in revenue from federal stimulus dollars aimed at special education funding. District 95 will be receiving just under $250,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), according to the preliminary budget presented to board members last week.
Kuzniewski said that since the money has to be spent specifically for special education, he would recommend using the money over a two-year period, perhaps to pay for easily documented special education expenses, such as salaries, and using money in the education fund set aside for those salaries for other purposes.
Finally, the budget calls for a transfer of $300,000 from working cash to the education fund. While it is listed in the budget document as a permanent transfer, Kuzniewski said that if the transfer is made, it would be in the form of a loan and would be paid back to the working cash fund.
The transfer may be necessary, Kuzniewski said, if property tax payments from Cook County are late. The district has made similar loans from working cash to cover late tax revenues in recent years.
In the meantime, expenses are estimated to be going up in the education fund for the 2009-10 school year by 4.7 percent, driving principally by teacher salary increases. The budget projects teacher salaries overall to increase by 5 percent.
Salaries and benefits for teacher, administrators, aides and support staff, represent between 72 and 78 percent of the operating budget, Kuzniewski said.
While the district’s finances are in the black for 2009-10, there could be additional pressures on the budget starting next year.
In addition to the CPI limiting additional tax revenue, the district will be renegotiating its teachers’ contract, which ends at the end of the 2009-10 school year.
Revenue from the state of Illinois, including general state aid and grants will likely also be lower, putting more pressure on school districts to fund their operations through local property taxes.
“The state situation is not going to get any better,” Kuzniewski said. “We could be at a half-million dollars in lost revenues, depending on what the state cuts next year.”