Despite cutting next year’s projected deficit by more than $1 million, Riverside-Brookfield High School will still run an operating deficit in 2012-13, Superintendent Kevin Skinkis told the school board last month.

Skinkis said that the school’s budget deficit next year would be between $200,000 and $400,000.

“We’ve pretty much made the reductions everywhere we could have made reductions.” Skinkis told the board. “After this, there’s not much possibility of making further reductions.”

The budget deficit was originally projected to be approximately $1.6 million next year before the board and administration made a series of cuts. They laid off some teachers, reduced some other teachers to part-time status and more than doubled the pay-to-participate fee charged to student-athletes.

Last week, the school reduced the hours for six non-certified staff members in a move that Skinkis said would save the district between $17,000 and $25,000. It also voted to recall or increase the assignment of six teachers, including baseball and varsity girls basketball coach Dallas Till, who was offered a part-time contract.

“I think we’ve made some significant strides in addressing the district’s financial concerns while still offering a full slate of activities and classes for students,” Skinkis told the Landmark in a separate interview.

Skinkis said he won’t know the exact amount of next year’s projected deficit until the summer, after final decisions are made about teacher staffing.

Reserve funds will cover the deficit.

Although the deficit is expected to be fairly small next year, it could increase rapidly after that.

“Next year we’ll have a slight deficit, but then right away in two years out, the deficits start to climb again,” Skinkis told the school board. “Within two or three years … projections say we’ll be back to about a million dollar deficit again. Obviously a lot of this is contingent on collective bargaining with the new contract. We still have to be putting together as to how we’re going to address revenues for the district.”

The contract with the teachers union expires on June 30, 2013, and renegotiating that contract will be a big focus for the board over the next year.

Two main alternatives for raising revenue are passing a tax referendum or borrowing money by issuing working cash bonds as the district did in 2008.

State rep: Grant money likely on the way

Last month, state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-21st) told the Riverside-Brookfield High District 208 Board of Education that he doesn't think it will be too long before the school district receives an $8.9 million state grant the district applied for nearly a decade ago.

"I reached out to the governor's office, and I was told it's not unreasonable for the board to expect the money in short order," Zalewski told the school board. "I've been given no reason to believe that it isn't coming."

The money couldn't come at a better time for RBHS, which has spent the last year making significant budget cuts, including laying off some teachers, after the defeat of a tax referendum in 2011.

District 208 school board President Matt Sinde said he's still not counting on the windfall from the state.

"We need to finalize and fix this budget and not count on money from the state that we don't have," said Sinde.

Reached at the state capitol last week, Zalewski restated his optimism, but noted that right now the legislature in preoccupied with other issues.

He described himself as "cautiously optimistic" about the grant.

"It is not unreasonable to say that they could see the money this year," said Zalewski, who is a Riverside resident. "But I continue to be in conversations with the governor's office, and I'm hopeful we can get the money in the near future. I'm hopeful."

In 2003, District 208 applied to the Illinois Capital Development Board for a grant to help fund construction work at the school. RBHS is now No. 5 on the list of school districts that applied for grants in 2003 still waiting to receive money.

The state legislature must still vote to authorize giving the money to the school districts on the waiting list. The grants are funded, in part, by video gambling which is starting to be rolled out in Illinois.

In February, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that school districts will receive about $623 million as part of the Illinois Jobs Now program, which allowed RBHS to move up the list to its present position.