Despite a record high district enrollment this year and spending about $12 million on renovations at three of its schools this summer, Riverside Elementary School District 96 remains in a strong financial position.
On Sept. 18 the District 96 Board of Education unanimously approved a budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that projects an operating surplus of $142,000. If the budget forecast is accurate, it will be the eighth straight year District 96 has finished with a surplus.
Operating expenditures are projected to increase by less than 2 percent this year. The district plans to spend $23,277,200 to operate its five schools this year and projects operating revenues of 23,419,200.
Its education fund, which pays teacher salaries and other instructional expenses, is projected to run a $7,000 surplus, with revenues of $18,952,200 and expenditures of $18,945,200.
As of Sept. 18 the 1,600 students were attending District 96 schools this year, a record high surpassing the previous high of 1,587 students set in 1972. Enrollment at L.J. Hauser Junior High increased about 15 percent this year to 567 students.
The district is employing one more teacher this year than it did a year ago, a new fourth-grade teacher at Central School.
As in all schools personnel costs are by far the largest expense for the district.
“Employee costs count for 82 percent of the budget,” said District 96 Superintendent Jonathon Lamberson.
At the Sept. 18 meeting Lamberson told the school board that he is confident the district will finish with a surplus once again.
“The budget is definitely in the black,” Lamberson said. “We will underspend our budget.”
Lamberson said that the district follows a zero-based budgeting policy and does not penalize departments if they underspend their budget in a prior year. Because of that there are no end-of-year spending sprees that occur as departments race to spend all the money allocated to them so their budgets will not be cut the next year, Lamberson said.
“We buy things at the beginning of the year, because that’s when the kids come,” Lamberson said noting that the district hardly buys anything in the spring.
Lamberson said that he did not expect any significant hits to revenues in the form of commercial property tax appeals. He has budgeted, as he does every year, $500,000 for property tax appeals, a figure that he says has never been exceeded while he has been at the helm of District 96.
District 96 is still reaping the rewards of a successful 2004 property tax referendum that has swelled its coffers.
“The district’s fiscal condition continues to improve as a result of the generous ongoing support of the community,” Lamberson wrote in general concluding comments to the budget.