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Coal City School District budget may be cut by $400,000

COAL CITY – The preliminary budget for next year for Coal City School District reflects about $400,000 in reductions as the district works to trim $1 million throughout the next four years.

“That $400,000 number wasn’t a number we were shooting for, per se, but it was what fell out during our budget reduction process,” Jason Smith, Coal City Unit School District 1 director of business services, said Monday.

Declining property values prompted the district to implement a $1 million reduction goal beginning next school year.

District 1 will experience a sharp decline in revenue from Dresden Generating Station, the district’s largest tax contributor, which accounts for about 70 percent of the entire school district’s budget.

Last tax year, the plant was given an equalized assessed value of $567 million, but Dresden’s EAV has dropped to $510 million this year.

The decrease was anticipated as the district approved a five-year agreement with Dresden Station about four months ago, which established the station’s property values moving forward.

“The biggest change for us is on the revenue side,” Superintendent Kent Bugg said Monday. “We saw a $57 million drop in revenue from Dresden Station, and that was entirely because of the new tax agreement.”

Despite the revenue reductions, Coal City School District taxpayers will not see their tax rate increase next year as the district intends to keep the rate at about 3.13 percent, according to the tentative 2014-15 budget presented at the Coal City School Board meeting last week.

Instead of raising the tax rate, the district has trimmed about $400,000 from its budget by delaying some capital improvements projects, not filling certain vacant personnel positions, and changing some of the district’s bus routes.

“It’s a variety of things that we did. Some of them were personnel, and some of them were supplies and equipment,” Bugg said.

Smith stressed the numbers in the tentative budget will likely change slightly as some of the unknown variables become concrete, including insurance rates and other small expenditures.

The tentative budget was approved by the school board last week. The final approval of the 2014-15 budget is scheduled for September.

Smith said the district aimed to cut $250,000 from the budget each year for the next four years, but is ahead of the schedule with the 2014-15 budget.

“For next year, we’ll try to identify another $250,000, but if all goes well, I anticipate we’ll be able to eliminate more than that, working toward that $1 million goal set by the board,” he said.

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