It’s a tale of two budgets for Riverside-Brookfield High School and Lyons Township High School this year.

While the budget approved by the RBHS District 208 Board of Education last week projects a surplus of $625,000 for the 2022-23 fiscal year the LTHS District 204 Board of Education approved a budget on Sept. 19 that projects a deficit of approximately $3.4 million.

But the LTHS deficit is misleading, because it is caused by heavy capital spending to add more air conditioning at the school. More than half of the deficit is the result of a project to replace the nearly 60-year-old chillers and air-handling units at the North Campus fieldhouse originally scheduled to be done this past summer. The work was put off until next summer, because the contractor could not get the air-handling units delivered in time to do the work this year.

“We still don’t have the equipment yet,” said Brian Stachacz, the director of business services for LTHS.

Stachacz said that the air-handling units in the fieldhouse should last for one more year.

“We’ll have to get these through one more year, but we’ve been able to do it so far,” Stachacz said. “I’d say we got our money’s worth out of them.”  

In addition to completely replacing the heating and air-conditioning system at the North Campus Fieldhouse next year at a cost of a little more than $2 million, LTHS officials are planning to fully air conditioning J Wing of the South Campus, which consists of 14 science labs. That is expected to cost around $2 million.  

“Essentially what we’re doing is we’re using some of the reserve funds that we have for some of these air-conditioning projects,” Stachacz said. “It’s not a common practice for the LT board to go into reserves, but obviously we have the money available to us.”

Despite using reserves to pay for the air conditioning, LTHS still will remain in strong financial condition. It ended the 2021-22 fiscal year with reserves of $48.9 million.

This past summer, LTHS added air conditioning to B and C wings at South Campus, providing air conditioning to 64 additional classrooms.

Total budgeted revenues in the major operating funds at LTHS are projected to increase by 2.3 percent, and the 2021 tax levy is expected to be $2.3 million higher than the 2020 tax levy. 

The levy runs one year behind the calendar year. Federal funding, mostly from the pandemic-related stimulus bill, is projected to account for 3.9 percent ($3.7 million) of revenues in the current fiscal year. 

But 90 percent of LTHS revenues come from local sources, mostly property taxes, while 6 percent will come from the state of Illinois and 4 percent from the federal government.

On the expenditure side, total salaries at LTHS are estimated to increase by 4.9 percent ($2.5 million), and employee benefit costs are projected to increase by 7.6 percent, mostly driven by an anticipated increase in health insurance costs of $500,000.

Stachacz said LTHS last ran a deficit in 2016-17 when significant amount of air conditioning was added.

RBHS to issue life safety bonds

In addition to approving the 2022-23 budget last week, the RBHS school board expects to sell $2.34 million in life safety bonds to pay for replacing the HVAC units on the roof over the library and the cafeteria, which also cool a number of classrooms. 

The bonds and should cost the average taxpayer an additional $30 annually for two years. The board plans to hire a commissioning agent to oversee the project at a cost of about $10,000.

Some additional revenue that was not originally expected will be spent on installing LED lighting in the RBHS auditorium, expanding blended learning opportunities, updating the furniture in the RBHS library with some flexible seating and improvements to the always congested student pickup and drop-off area.