Thanks to just over $1 million in federal COVID relief money the budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year at Riverside Brookfield High School projects a $694,000 surplus. The District 208 Board of Education formally approved the budget by a vote of 6-0 at the Sept. 14 school board meeting.

“The ESSER funds are our lifeline this year,” said District 208 school board president Deanna Zalas at the meeting referring to the acronym for the Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief funds that are part of various federal stimulus and COVID relief legislation passed by Congress over the last two years.

Assistant Superintendent Kristin Smetana said the federal money turned what would have been a deficit budget into a projected surplus.

“We would not have had a surplus without the ESSER funds,” Smetana said.

ESSER money is paid out to school districts as reimbursements for various expenditures, not as direct grants. RBHS is getting reimbursed by the federal government for spending approximately $336,500 on paraprofessionals, $171,000 on Chromebooks, $170,000 for educational software, $84,000 for hiring 1.4 FTE new teachers, $75,000 on alternative learning programs and $60,000 for wraparound services for vulnerable students to name the biggest uses of federal money. RBHS expects to receive $1,022,288 in ESSER money during the current fiscal year.

Federal money also helped turn what was a projected deficit last year into what ended up as a $1,183,296 budget surplus. 

For the current fiscal year operating revenues at RBHS are estimated to be $28,692,708, a 1.97% increase over last year. Operating expenses are estimated to be $27,998,708, a 3.87% increase over last year. RBHS is receiving an additional $135,000 in general state aid this year as a result of the state’s evidence-based funding formula. 

When all funds are included the district’s anticipated surplus rises to $837,231. Total revenues are projected to be $34,558,720 while total expenses are projected to be $33,721,489. The district is expected to end the fiscal year in June with reserves of $21,896,776 or just over 54% of total expenses of $2.9 million of working cash funds that has been set aside for land acquisition is not included. If that $2.9 million in working cash is included the district is projected to end the year with reserves equal to 64.8% of annual expenses which means the district could fund its operations for nearly eight months in the next fiscal year without any additional revenue before running out of money.

The bulk of the district’s revenues, 74%, comes from local property taxes. State aid accounts for 10% of revenues, other local revenue accounts for 9% of revenue and federal aid is expected to account for 7% of revenues this year. This year the district is projecting a 99% property tax collection rate, up from the 97% rate it projected last year.

Salaries are by far the biggest expense for the district accounting for 76% of expenses with employee benefits accounting for another 11%. Due to the retirement of five teachers the total expenditures on salaries are projected to decrease by almost 1% this year despite the increase of total teaching staff by .7 FTE. Insurance costs for staff are projected to decrease by 3.84%.

The district is projecting a large increase in rental income, estimating that it will receive $70,000 in rental income for the use of its facilities after only receiving $22,187 last year due to the pandemic.

Other area school districts are also projecting surpluses. Lyons Township High School District is projecting a surplus of $125,202. LTHS is expected to receive about $1.2 in federal ESSER money. Riverside Elementary District 96 is projecting an operating surplus of $1,131,453. The District 96 budget, which was approved in July, includes $400,000 in ESSER money.

Brookfield, LaGrange Park District 95, which passed its budget in July, is now projecting an operating surplus of between $300,000 and $400,000 aided by about $564,000 in ESSER grants. Komarek School District 94 is projecting an operating surplus of approximately $150,000. Lyons School District 103, which includes the southeastern portion of Brookfield, is projecting an operating surplus of $61,474 and LaGrange District 102, which includes the southwestern portion of Brookfield, is projecting an operating surplus of approximately $230,000.