With about three-quarters of the 2013-14 fiscal year in the books, District 202’s daily operating budget appears to be on solid ground – if the state comes through with its share of funding.
As always, district officials caution, that is a big “if."
At the end of March, the operating budget showed a projected surplus of about $1.2 million, slightly more than anticipated last fall when the budget was approved. The Operating Budget comprises the five funds that pay for daily operating costs: education, operations and maintenance, transportation, IMRF/Social Security and tort immunity.
If the fiscal year ends as expected, this would be the second straight year that District 202 finishes in the black, going back to at least 2008 when the recession started.
The 2013-14 budget as approved last September anticipated a $960,000 operating surplus. That was the first time in years that the district started a fiscal year expecting to end with a surplus, rather than a deficit.
Angie Smith, assistant superintendent for business and operations attributed the good news primarily to higher revenues and four years of fiscal austerity to counter the ongoing effects of a weakened economy and10 years of unprecedented growth.
District 202 cut about $42 million in operating expenses between 2009 and 2012, mostly by eliminating about 345 full-time teaching, support staff and administrative positions.
Still, Smith said, a lot will depend on the state making its final general state aid payment on time.
“We have continued to work hard to cut corners where we can, save on utilities and stretch our resources,” Smith said. “But as usual we have to be very cautious until we actually see that money from the state,” she said.
Board of Education President Roger Bonuchi also praised both employee associations and district administrators for making many tough decisions – in particular Smith, her predecessor John Prince and Superintendent Dr. John Harper.
“It has been a long road, and there is a lot of work to be done before we can really be financially comfortable, but we’ve come a very long way through a lot of hard work and shared sacrifice,” Bonuchi said.