A new five-year financial forecast predicts larger operating budget deficits for Riverside Brookfield High School over the next few years than previously forecast. 

The new forecast was presented to the school board at its Feb. 26 meeting by RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana, who on July 1 will take on primary responsibility for finance as part of her new role in the newly created position of assistant superintendent.

This year’s operating deficit is now projected to be $214,470 which is a slight decrease of the previous projection of $231,000. The reduction in the projected deficit this year is the result of art teacher Suzanne Zimmerman taking a full year parental leave. 

Operating deficits are projected to balloon to about $730,000 in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 before dropping to nearly $480,000 in 2022 and then falling further to nearly $220,000 in 2023.

 Year-end fund balances are projected to decline from about $15.3 million at the end of the current fiscal year to approximately $10.5 million at the end of the 2023 fiscal year. 

That would still leave the district with cash reserves of about 38 percent of the operating budget, generally considered a quite healthy level, at the end of fiscal 2023.

“We’re OK fund balances-wise but we need to start looking at it, because deficits are inevitable at this point,” said District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis at the Feb. 26 school board meeting.

The projected deficits are a cause for concern among school board members.

“It’s not an immediate crisis,” said District 208 school board President Garry Gryczan. “It’s something to start thinking about and planning for.”

The forecasts are causing board members to think about asking residents for more money via a tax referendum at some point in the future, maybe five or six years from now when the construction bonds issued as part of the renovation and expansion of RBHS that voters approved in 2006 are paid off.

The other alternative, if present trends continue, would be to reduce spending by cutting staff and increasing class sizes. 

But any referendum appears to be a few years away. Gryczan and Skinkis have talked about asking voters to approve a tax increase when the bonds issued as a result of the 2006 referendum to renovate and expand RBHS begin to be retired. 

As those bonds are paid off, a successful referendum could redirect some of the tax payments now being used to pay off the building bonds to operating revenues without increasing the tax burden on residents.  

In 2011 referendum voters in District 208 overwhelmingly rejected an attempt to increase operating taxes, with 76.76 percent of voters voting against the tax increase.