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Dist. 201 to operate with large deficit

Declining EAV, unpaid taxes will lead to $3 million shortfall

MINOOKA — Grade School Dist. 201 Superintendent Al Gegenheimer gave highlights of the fiscal year 2013 budget during a public hearing Wednesday night.

“It’s more like the low lights,” Gegenheimer said. “We are looking at a real operating deficit.”

The district’s education fund is expected to have a $1.5 million deficit during the year, which can be tied to the area’s declining EAV and as-of-yet-unpaid property taxes by industry.

“In the last two years, the district has lost $100 million in EAV,” Gegenheimer said.

Additionally the transportation fund deficit is projected at about $1.1 million, due to the purchase of land and projected construction costs for the district’s new transportation facility, which it will share with Minooka High District 111.

“We have grown beyond capacity of our current building,” Gegenheimer said.

There’s also a $1 million projection in the contingency fund, put aside in the event of a problem.

“In case something major happens we can still hold school while it’s being fixed,” Gegenheimer said.

The redeeming news, said Gegenheimer, is that the district has healthy fund balances to start and end the year.

The finance committee and administration will be looking at ways to reduce the deficit through a reduction plan.  The biggest problem, said Gegenheimer, is that 80 to 90 percent of the district’s expenses are tied to personnel.

“Our last deficit reduction plan was difficult because it affected people, this one is going to be even more difficult,” he said.

“To cut the kind of money we are looking at, there’s only one way to do it. You are talking about people and programs,” Gegenheimer said. “There’s a level of quality people expect from our schools and we have done that efficiently. But the reality is, it doesn’t meet our revenue.”

Gegenheimer and Assistant Superintendent Steph Palaniuk are researching a Race to The Top grant that could bring in additional revenue. But the district’s low-income-student ratio is less than the 40 percent needed to be considered.

“We would be one of the last to be picked,” Gegenheimer said. “(Even so) it’s not going to fill the hole.”

The budget was approved by a 6-1 vote, with board of education member Doug Martin voting against.

Following the meeting, Martin commented that while the district has healthy fund balances, at a deficit rate of $2 million a year, it would burn through the money in a couple years.

He would like to see steps taken now to reduce the budgeted deficit, perhaps by half, which could help get the district through the rough economy.

“I don’t think the whole deficit has to go, but the burn rate is too great,” Martin said.

Gegenheimer applauded several teachers later in the meeting for their work applying for and getting $15,000 worth of grants that will be used in the classrooms.

The board approved a $3,500 stipend for the district’s lead mechanic, who will take on extra responsibilities organizing and running the transportation building. The cost will be split with District 111.

The board Wednesday also:
• Approved a CNA position for the special education program.

• Considered setting eighth grade graduation for May 30, 2013.

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