District 68 budget carries deficit for third year
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:02PM
SKOKIE — After years of carrying a balanced budget, Skokie School District 68 is projected to operate at a deficit in 2012-13, the third straight year.
This is not uncommon for school districts in the area, which face reduced revenue because of a difficult economy, including a Cook County property tax cap that limits the amount of revenue that can be generated.
The district’s projected $2.7 million deficit is roughly the same as last year’s budgeted deficit. Total revenue, budgeted at just under $31 million, doesn’t completely offset the $33.6 million in spending in the budget, which recently was approved by the District 68 School Board.
Spending in the overall budget is up by less than 4 percent.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance Beth Millard said that proceeds from previous working cash bond sales will be used to plug the deficit.
The budget tells a common story in school districts under today’s challenging economy: Revenue increases are not keeping up with spikes in expenses. Revenue in the District 68 budget shows an increase of nearly 1.3 percent from last year, not nearly as great as the more-than-4-percent hike in district spending.
The education fund, the largest by far and where day-to-day spending occurs, is budgeted at $25.2 million. That reflects just over a 1.1 percent increase in spending, which district officials say demonstrates careful spending in tough economic times.
Millard noted that salary and benefit costs account for 68 percent of the total budget, and 80 percent of the education fund.
The district’s 2012-13 salary budget is expected to increase by under 3 percent, but those expenses will be offset by staff turnover and reductions in support service staffing, she said. Still, education fund revenue at under $23 million does not completely offset spending of more than $25 million in the fund, even though expenses are up by less than 1.2 percent.
“The budget is intended to be a working document,” Millard said. “It is used throughout the school year to give direction and guidance to the school board and administration concerning the allocation of funds during the year.”
District 68’s reserve funds remain healthy. The district begin the fiscal year with $29.3 million, which included proceeds from working cash bond sales in 2005, 2007 and 2011. The deficit though is expected to leave District 68 with $26.2 million in its coffers — still a healthy amount, officials say.
Last year, the district hired more staff to accommodate increases in enrollment and expansion in its technology and special education departments. More English language learner teachers also were hired. Enrollment this year though is down by 0.6 percent for the first time in two years, and the budget does not include the same kind of spending for new staff.
Other funds in the 2012-13 budget include operation and maintenance at more than $2.5 million, bond and interest at more than $2.2 million, capital projects at under $1.9 million, transportation at more than $1.3 million, retirement at $504,500, Social Security and medicare at $538,200 and tort immunity at $187,000.