Updated Sept. 18, 2012 – 2:15 p.m.

Last week the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 Board of Education unanimously approved a budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that projects that the school will run a $278,000 operating deficit this year.

When capital projects and debt service are added the projected budget deficit shrinks to $152,612. The deficit will be covered by reserve funds.

Total operating expenditures are projected to be $19,979,376 this year while total operating expenditures are projected to be $20,257,376. The education fund, which covers instructional expenses, is projected to have a deficit of $460,974.

“I am pleased with the final budget the board approved,” said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis in an emailed statement. “A lot of tough decisions were made to decrease the deficit, and I appreciate the patience and support of all the stakeholders while we work to improve the financial status of the district.”

RBHS ended the 2011-12 fiscal year ended with an unexpected operating surplus of $333,158 after the school made a series of significant budget cuts and paid out a much less in property tax refunds than anticipated. When the 2011-12 budget was approved, it projected an operating deficit of approximately $920,000.

“It’s a very good prediction of where we’ll be at the end of the year,” said school board member Mike Welch of the new budget.

Although the school board did not meet its goal of a balanced budget, members expressed satisfaction with where they ended up.

“I think we’re at a point where we can be somewhat stable,” said board member Garry Gryczan.

The budget predicts an ending operating fund reserve of $5,818,617 or 28.72 percent of operating fund expenditures, which is well above the minimum fund balance of 20 percent that is board policy.

The biggest cost reduction in this year’s budget came from cutting faculty by the equivalent of 8.6 full-time positions, which will save the district about $800,000, Skinkis said. Four veteran teachers took early retirement, and at least six other teachers voluntarily left the school over the summer. For the most part, they were not replaced.

In August the school board did hire some part-time teachers to help with ACT test preparation and focus on students needing additional help. Previously, the budget had anticipated a reduction of 9.3 faculty positions.

“The teachers leaving were replaced by lower-cost teachers, which allowed for some new staff to work on ACT scores,” Skinkis said.

Before voting to approve the budget, board member John Keen said that while he was disappointed that the board did not achieve a balanced budget he felt that the budget controlled costs.

Keen said that the board could have achieved a balanced budget if teachers had agreed to modify their contract, now in its final year.

“I think almost all stakeholders in this institution gave something up except for one,” Keen said. “If that group had contributed to this budget we would actually have a surplus. I think, looking forward, I really hope that all stakeholders will get on board to maintain our financial stability.”

Teachers at RBHS received an average raise of 6.5 percent, according to a set of budget assumptions prepared by the administration and released with the budget.

The 6.5 percent figure is an average that includes both raises in base pay and annual step increases, which most teachers received.

Support staff received average raises of 3.5 percent, while administrators had their salaries frozen this year. Some support staff were laid off or had their hours reduced.

Early retirement penalties paid to the Illinois Teacher Retirement System are projected to decline by $166,144 this year compared to $366,144 paid last year.

Savings are also coming from cutting supply budgets. The supply budget for the athletic department was cut by 30 percent, while supply budgets for other departments were cut by 20 to 25 percent.

As he did last year, former school board President James Marciniak used the public comment portion of the budget hearing to blast the current school board for its budget.

Marciniak criticized the board for cutting educational expenditures and raising fees while preserving most of the athletic budget.

“That you’re proposing an Ed fund deficit is astounding given the fact that within that fund you plan to preserve an $800,000 athletics budget without eliminating a single sport,” Marciniak said. “You’re even increasing the athletics budget by over $20,000 over last year’s educational spending. … I have to wonder about the board priorities this reflects. Is this a school or a rec center?”

Marciniak told the board that it is time to try again to pass a tax increase referendum.

“This board is weakening the school through its inaction on increasing property tax revenue,” Marciniak said.

“In [community members’] minds, if the lights are on at the stadium on Friday night, everything must be OK, he added. “Only problem is, the board is over there putting on a football game it can’t afford while class sizes swell, promising young teachers are being driven away and great veteran teachers are walking away.”

This article has been changed to correct the increase in the athletics budget for the 2012-13 school year and to clarify who James Marciniak was referring to in his quote in the second to last paragraph in the story.