Last week the Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 school board unanimously approved a budget for the 2019 fiscal year that projects a deficit of $231,372. If RBHS finishes the budget year in the red it would be the first operating deficit the school has run since 2011, the year before superintendent Kevin Skinkis arrived, when the school racked up a deficit of nearly $1.4 million.
RBHS traditionally has budgeted conservatively and just because a budget projects a deficit doesn’t mean the school will end up running a deficit.
Last year’s budget projected a deficit of approximately $326,000 but the school actually finished the fiscal year with a budget surplus of just over $1.1 million. The late collection of property tax revenues accounted for part of the surplus as more than $600,000 in property tax revenue for the 2017 fiscal year wasn’t actually collected until after the start of the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
RBHS also traditionally budgets conservatively often overestimating expenses and underestimating revenues. However, this year District 208 Chief Financial Officer Scott Beranek increased the budget’s revenue forecast by raising the assumed property tax collection rate a half of a percentage point to 99 percent from 98.5 percent.
“Scott Beranek has worked closely with the building administration and myself to develop what we believe to be a fiscally responsible budget for the 2018-19 school year,” Skinkis said in an email. “The budget for fiscal year 2019 is approximately 25.5M dollars, and has a projected deficit of approximately $230,000. However, if the tax collection/distribution from Cook County and State reimbursements are received before June 30, 2019, the District should be very close to a balanced budget. Historically, the District operates within budget for its expenditures, it has been the revenues that have fluctuated over the last five years.”
RBHS professional staff count has increased this year by nearly one full time staff member with a current full-time equivalent staff count of 104.5 compared to 103.6 last year. The school has added a second full time psychologist and added a part time social worker to support two full-time social workers.
The part time social worker will work primarily on special education issues and free up the two full time social workers to work more proactively this year and work on some new initiatives RBHS is rolling out such as a peer mediation program.
“We felt that we needed more services to provide all students some information and be proactively providing that information,” said RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana.
Social workers will help provides lessons on dealing with anxiety, dating, bullying, conflict resolution, and be able to work more closely with at risk freshmen, Smetana said.
The psychologists are provided to the district by the LaGrange Area Special Education Cooperative (LADSE). Officials are still trying to hire someone to teach one section of Biology to split a class that now has 28 students into two sections.
RBHS is spending $40,000 this year for technology infrastructure improvements to increase bandwidth and improve the school’s firewall to support the final implementation of its one-to-one computer initiative. This year, for the first time, all RBHS students have a school issued Chromebook. The program was phased in, one class at a time, over the past four years.
The budget calls for a transfer of $200,000 from the working cash fund to the capital projects fund to fund studies on athletic fields. The district is hoping to work out an agreement with Brookfield Zoo officials which would allow the school to better utilize the athletic fields just north of the school on zoo owned land.
The district is expected to continue running deficits over the next five years according to financial projections.
Revenues are estimated to be about $25.6 million this year and expenditures are estimated to be about $26 million. The expenditures include the $200,000 which will be transferred from the working cash fund, an operating fund, to the capital projects fund which is not an operating fund.