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New Budget Puts District 202 into the Red by $9.2M

The financial picture is worse than had been projected at the end of August; Supt. John Harper's been directed to find places to save money, with non-personnel cuts made first.

The school board approved a $288.2 million 2011-12 budget Monday with a projected deficit that substantially grew in the past month.

On Aug. 29, the district anticipated an , but with new information that's become available since then, the district now is projecting an operating fund deficit of $9.2 million

John Prince, assistant superintendent for business and operations, said the district has had to adjust for about $1.65 million less in state aid than it previously anticipated, while paying about $1.68 million more in expenditures, mostly in health insurance and new student information software costs.

Operating costs -- the total of six funds used to pay daily expenses -- show total expenditures at $251.3 million and total revenue at $242.1 million. Last month, the district anticipated total expenditures at about $249.6 million and total revenues at about $243.8 million.

School board member Rod Westfall, who voted against approving the budget, said he did so out of protest. The state is continuing to underfund education and reduce transportation and per-pupil funding forcing districts that already have lean budgets to cut more programming and staff, he said.

“I’m sick and tired of state leadership not doing a damn thing because it directly affects our community and our kids,” he said.

When voting on the budget, board members said they want to ensure all available non-personnel cuts are made before staff gets reduced.

Supt. John Harper said that while he agrees with that philosophy and shares in the board’s commitment, it is difficult task because salaries and benefits make up nearly 80 percent of the school district’s budget.

The school board will have to make tough decisions ahead.

“We’ve adopted the budget, but we are not done talking about it,” board President Roger Bonuchi said.

Since March 2009, the district has cut 272 full-time equivalent certified, support and administrative positions to save about $29 million. The district cut 86 positions in 2009; 159 positions in 2010 and .

“Every year this gets more and more difficult,” board member Michael Kelly said, adding that programs the district once put in place to help children have had to be dismantled because of budget restraints.

District officials said a still-weak economy combined with reduced state funding, a decrease in property values and new construction, high rates of foreclosures and higher expenses have all contributed to the bleak budget.

The district is expected to be on the state’s financial watch list, the worst of four indictors of financial stability, from the years 2012 through 2017.

The district is projecting a $14.1 million budget deficit in fiscal year 2013. Without additional revenue created through more budget cuts, this deficit would cause the district to deplete all of its working cash to pay its expenses leaving its aggregate operating fund balance $1.56 million in the red, according to the district’s outside financial advisors, PMA Financial Network.

Negative fund balances are projected to accumulate.

A projected budget deficit of $14.4 million in fiscal 2014 will lead to an aggregate operating fund balance of negative $15.9 million that year, and the district could be $33.7 million in the hole by 2015.

rich mcelmeel September 28, 2011 at 01:26 PM
This is going to continue to occur until we have a large drop in student body that would result in a lower need for staff and their support. This will not happen any time soon as I believe the 7th graders are the biggest class moving through the system. We are at the mercy of a soft governor that is supposed to be from the political party that supports public education. He does not stand against those that legislate to our detriment. We also have an education president that cannot govern when he is campaigning. Mr. Obama failed us when he did not put the housing market first, he failed to see the relationship between housing and education and it is our kids that will pay the price.
Steve Otto September 28, 2011 at 11:54 PM
Seriously - who did not see this coming? Now would be a good time to reflect on some recent decisions made by the school board: http://plainfield.patch.com/articles/best-use-of-57m-grant-may-be-to-pay-down-building-debt-dist-202-offiicals-say http://triblocal.com/plainfield/2011/03/01/d202-uses-5-7m-federal-grant-to-stave-off-massive-layoffs/
AP October 01, 2011 at 02:26 PM
While the state holds a large responsibility for this deficit, I think the Board of Education sent a clear message when they decided NOT to follow the budget recommendation made by Dr. John Harper. The budget proposed by Dr. Harper would have eliminated the deficit for that year. The Board of Education chose to vote on the side of popularity rather than reason because this proposed budget included deep cuts in personnel and student services.
Rod Westfall October 01, 2011 at 05:45 PM
The federal jobs stimulus money was used by the board for the reason it was intended to save jobs not to pay off land purchases. The admins staff cut proposal would eliminate more positions that what was proposed because of the seniority bumping that would occur. The orginal staffing cuts number would more than double. Then what have 40 kids in a classroom? What the board needs to do is quit providing programs and services for all unfunded state programs. The current board and previous boards have worked hard to save our taxpayers money, weather it was to create the Plainfield Academy which save 2 million dollars annually to refinancing bonds to also save millions of dollars for our community. The leadership of our state have done a lousy job of providing proper funding for our kids. That is where you need to direct your anger towards. I know this current board and previous boards take their work seriously and always have to clean up the mess that the state leave them in. Look at all the social services programs that are not being paid and have to shut down, nurshing homes, shelters etc... Place the blame where it lies with the state leadership. For the record I'm speaking on behalf of myself not the rest of the board they are along with our administration are caring and compassionate people.

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