It appears that the budget deficit for Riverside Brookfield High School will be more than $800,000 for the 2019-20 fiscal year that begins on July 1. 

The tentative budget presented to District 208 Board of Education at the June 11 school board meeting projected an operating budget deficit of $857,256. The numbers will be updated at the board’s July 16 meeting. The final budget will be approved in September when school boards customarily approve budgets.

Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said on June 11 that as more numbers come in and final decisions about staffing are made for next year, the projected deficit could increase or decrease.

“This number will probably change,” Skinkis told the school board.

It appears likely that RBHS will finish this year at a deficit. A few months ago, district officials were projecting a deficit of $214,470 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Principal Kristin Smetana, who on July 1 will move to a newly created role of assistant superintendent and will be responsible for finance and operations, said she won’t know the final numbers for this year until July. 

Previously, district officials had been expecting to run a deficit of about $700,000 next year, but rising projections of special education costs have increased that estimate.

The district will probably have to spend more than previously anticipated for out-of-district private tuition costs and other special education services for new students next year, both incoming freshmen and some transfer students. 

The incoming freshman class has more students with extensive special education needs than had been anticipated, and some incoming transfer students with special needs are also increasing special education costs.

In addition, an increased number of older students with extensive needs who are part of the transition program are staying at RBHS after their four years there. By law, these students with extensive needs are guaranteed services until the student turns 22. More of those students are sticking around after four years of high school.

“More of those students are electing to stay on for transition services,” Smetana said at the June 11 board meeting explaining the unexpected increase in special education costs. “Some are for a year, some stay on for almost that full time, but I think that, along with the new incoming freshman class, is what’s resulted in that increase.” 

Board member Deanna Zalas expressed concern about the projections.

“I think we have some challenging discussions ahead of ourselves related to the budget,” Zalas said.

In other action at the June 11 meeting, the school board voted 6-0 to spend $41,250 to install new bleachers in the RBHS aquatics center. The current bleachers by the swimming pool do not aisles or railings and do not meet current Americans for Disability Act standards. The new bleachers will meet the ADA requirements.