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TIF surplus may bolster Dist. 54’s Education Fund

Budget deficit appears smaller than expected

During the Morris Elementary District 54 Board’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, Superintendent Teri Shaw proposed putting the district’s entire 2013-14 TIF surplus into the Education Fund.

It is a way to keep teachers in front of students, according to Shaw.

“[The Education Fund] needs to not be in such a negative state,” Shaw said.

The TIF surplus can be spent on anything, Shaw said. But once it is put somewhere, it stays there the entire year and can be spent only on that.

The board did not have a place for the current surplus, and seemed to support the idea.

The TIF surplus is an estimated $101,668.

This suggestion came during a non-action meeting at which Shaw presented the tentative FY’14 budget, which will be on the agenda for approval at next Monday’s regular board meeting.

The anticipated budget proposes $15,031,839 in revenue, which includes $1,542,160 in general state aid. It proposes $15,368,984 in expenses, most of which consists of staff salaries.

That means a $337,145 deficit in the proposed budget, which seemed to make board members optimistic.

“That’s a whole lot closer than I thought it was going to be,” Shaw said.

“I’m happy it’s closer,” Board Secretary Caroline Cummings said.

This will be the third year of declining revenues for the district, and an assessor Shaw met with predicted another negative year for the district before the budget evens out.

“We do anticipate 2015 to be another negative year,” Shaw said.

But, the district is expecting general state aid to increase from $1,269,00 this year to $1,542,160 the next.

“[The budget] is still a work in progress,” Shaw said. “We’re going to continue to fine tune it moving forward.”

In other business, the board discussed a request from Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity for the district to waive school fees for a new house it is building.

Last year, the board denied the request, worried it could set a precedent for the cash-strapped district.

“It wasn’t the dollar amount,” Board President Scot Hastings said. “The concern back then was precedent.”

The board this time around was still concerned with what kind of precedent it would set, but also saw some potential benefits to having more housing in the district.

Ultimately, the board felt it did not have enough information to make a decision and decided to wait to act.

“I think we have to have a dollar amount before we make a decision,” Board Member Bonnie Cap said.

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