Riverside Brookfield High School District 208 finished the fiscal year on June 30 with a budget surplus nearly five times greater than originally forecast. The operating budget surplus for the 2021-22 fiscal year ended up being $3,444,870 compared to the original forecast of a $694,000 budget surplus.

The main reason for the much larger than forecast surplus is that revenues came in seven percent higher than expected. The district received $570,412 more revenue from the state corporate personal property replacement tax than expected and received $442,900 more in property tax revenue than forecast. The district has a tradition of being conservative in its property tax revenue projections. 

RBHS also received $370,000 more in special education reimbursements than expected. The school also garnered more money from the state of Illinois than expected including $99,000 more in evidence based funding due to a clerical error by the state that allocated more money to the Chicago Public Schools and less money to suburban districts than was proper. RBHS also received $154,160 more in grant revenue than forecast and it received $83,317 in liability insurance reimbursement.

Special education expenses were also much lower than forecast with the district spending $467,779 less on special education than it budgeted for.  RBHS also saved about $40,000 by spending less than forecast for transportation costs, mostly due to a reduction in the number of field trips due to the pandemic.

For the 2022-23 fiscal year Assistant Superintendent Kristin Smetana is projecting a budget surplus of less than $500,000.

Despite the unexpectedly large surplus last year RBHS is also looking to issue approximately $2.3 million in life safety bonds this year to pay for new air handling systems for the school’s cafeteria and library. Those systems were not replaced during the renovation work done on the school a little more than a decade ago.

“We will be lucky if we can make it through the year without (the air handling units) breaking down,” Smetana said adding that the school has had issues with air handling units for the past 10 years.

The units will be replaced with smaller units and the work will likely be completed next summer.

The state of Illinois must approve the project as necessary to protect the life and safety of students and school employees for the school before the school can issue life safety bonds, which are not subject to a referendum.

The district is expected to issue two-year bonds to minimize interest expenses. Because $3 million in debt is being paid off in December 2022 the new life safety bonds should result in minimal impact on the tax bills of property owners in the district. 

“We’re trying to do this with minimal or no impact to the taxpayers,” said Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.

The district hopes to sell the bonds by the end of year. With interest rates rising the district’s financial advisor advised the school board at its July 12 meeting to sell the bonds as soon as it can.

“My advice is to get out in the market as quickly as possible because we don’t see inflation turning around,” said Elizabeth Hennessy of Raymond James.