By a now-familiar 4 to 3 vote, the Brookfield-Lyons District 103 School Board approved its 2015-16 budget on Sept. 24.

The budget estimates revenues to be $30,958,200 and expenses to be $33,433,200 with the shortfall covered by cash reserves. 

According to Jacqui Parisi, interim business manager, unaudited reserves were about $11.9 million as of June 30. She said the district ended the year with reserves at 37 percent of annual expenditures, a figure greater than the board policy of between 15 and 20 percent and within the Illinois State Board of Education recommended range of between 25 and 50 percent.

More than half the estimated revenues, $18.4 million, will come from property taxes, slightly less than the $20.3 million budgeted in 2014-15.  State aid is estimated to be $5.2 million, up from $4.7 million in the 2014-15 budget.

Parisi noted the budget includes $800,000 in expenses for air conditioning and security projects that were scheduled for the 2014-15 fiscal year but not completed. Revenues to cover those costs were included in the 2014-15 budget but could not be carried over to the new fiscal year.

Kyle Hastings, interim superintendent, also noted that the district failed to levy properly last year, creating an additional deficit.

“The prior administration did not levy appropriately,” he said, “leaving us short $1.5 million.”

For 2014-15, revenues were budgeted at $33.2 million and expenses were budgeted at $31.9 million. Actual revenues and expenses for the 2014-15 fiscal year are still not known due to issues related to the replacement of the district’s accounting system.

In August, the school board voted to hire the accounting firm of Baker Tilly to review six months of financial records to sync the district’s financial records with those of the Lyons School Township Treasurer’s Office and to develop processes to ensure those records are accurate moving forward, a process that has yet to be completed. 

The problems started more than a year ago when the board accepted the former administration’s recommendation that the district replace its DCR accounting system with a new system called Skyward. 

Skyward was intended to bring in-house a number of processes previously handled by the School Township Treasurer. The Skyward system was installed in January and ran parallel with the DCR system at the beginning. Discrepancies were noted when Baker Tilly started preliminary work on the school district’s 2014-15 audit.

During discussion of the budget on Sept. 24, board member Mark Camasta questioned the budget documents that had been provided, asking specifically about the document to be submitted to the Illinois State Board of Education, which had not been filled in. 

He stated that board members in prior years would be given the completed form to be submitted to the state with the other budget documents. Although Parisi gave assurances that the budget figures submitted that would be the same as those on the budget documents provided to board members, he still voted against adoption, as did fellow board members Sharon Anderson and Joanne Schaeffer.

Catherine Broderick, Coleen Shipbaugh, Jorge Torres and Michael Bennett voted in favor of adoption.

Broderick, Shipbaugh, Torres and Bennett have formed a voting block since being elected in April with the support of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty. Although the board generally agrees on mundane matters, decisions on controversial issues are generally by a 4 to 3 vote with board members Anderson, Camasta and Schaeffer in the minority.

Anderson cited Camasta’s reasons for voting “no” in explaining her vote.

“I agreed with Mark,” she said. “Normally we see exactly what will be sent to the state. That was not the case this time.

“I’m not going to sign something when I don’t know the contents. I’m not going to put my name on something I have not seen.”

Schaeffer tied her “no” vote to the uncertainty over financial figures.

“If we don’t have the numbers, how do we know how to budget?” she asked. “Why is there a $200,000 deficit? Is that because the levy was filed incorrectly?     

“I’m not getting proper explanations. I wonder what the state will say.”

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