Tuesday, January 31, 2006

D-26: No need for revenue boost now

The below article appeared in the Northwest Herald. It is great to have Kevin Craver back safely and reporting again for the Northwest Herald. He is one of the shining stars of the Northwest Herald. To view this article click on the title of this post. This is one of the few school boards in the over 800 school boards in Illinois that is opposed to tax increases. It is too bad that all Illinois residents can not have a responsible school board like this one running their school district.

D-26: No need for revenue boost now

[published on Mon, Jan 30, 2006]

CARY – Despite a possible deficit and possible borrowing against future tax dollars, District 26 school board members said it was too early to forecast a budget problem.

And with a solid majority of the board staunchly opposed to tax increases, and with a likelihood that voters would reject one, the district has no plans for a referendum anytime soon.

"Basically, we want to make sure that we take a good look at how the district is being run prior to going down a path saying that we need additional revenue from the taxpayers at this point in time," board President Craig Loew said.

But the numbers halfway through the district's current fiscal year hint at possible problems to come.

The district could run a $1.9 million deficit by the end of the year as a worst-case scenario and could issue up to $6 million in tax-anticipation warrants, Chief Financial Officer Andrea Gorla has said. The warrants are a way to borrow money at low interest rates against the next year's tax receipts.

Loew said school board members barely had discussed issuing the warrants.

If they do, it would be to ensure a steady cash flow and not because of a budget crisis, Loew said. The district had about $2 million in operating revenue in April, when the board issued $4.5 million in tax-anticipation warrants.

"The sheer fact we are taking tax-anticipation warrants does not mean we are in a true deficit position," he said.

Making ends meet without asking taxpayers for more money was a cornerstone of the April 2005 election that swept Loew and three other newcomers onto the board. A one-week teachers' strike in 2002 resulted in a contract that critics said the district couldn't afford, and 23 teachers were laid off after a 2004 education-fund referendum was clobbered by a 2-1 margin. The district cut programs and closed Oak Knoll School.

The current teachers contract expires at the end of this school year, Gorla said.

Board members are creating a new citizens financial advisory committee to help determine where money should be spent and saved, and to help communicate the budget process to residents.

"I think we have to dig in, and if costs are rising faster than our revenue, we have to figure out which costs are rising and how we should manage it," board member Chris Jenner said.

About 75 percent of the budget covers salaries and benefits, with 10 percent or so going to building operations and maintenance, Gorla said.

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