Community’s priorities will help determine solutions to deficit problems
Community Consolidated School District 15 is projected to run a $6.2 million deficit this year, and, without any reductions, a nearly $10 million deficit in fiscal year 2012-13. If not addressed, annual budget shortfalls such as these are projected to reduce the District’s current fund balance from approximately $55 million, which represents almost 40 percent of its budget, to about $4.8 million, or roughly 3 percent of its budget, by the end of fiscal year 2015-16.
The District’s recent Budget Information Forums were intended to explain this problem. To correct its structural deficit and maintain a strong financial position, the District must bring its spending more in line with its revenues. Consequently, the Board of Education has asked the administration to create a list of potential spending reductions for the 2012-13 school year totaling $10 million. Once the administration develops that list, it will hold additional forums in January to provide staff and community members with opportunities to offer their feedback and help prioritize the items presented. This list will be presented to the Board who will then determine the final reduction target.
“People ask if we are in this situation because we have not managed our money well, because we are overspending,” said Superintendent Scott Thompson during a recent Budget Information Forum. “The facts don’t support those beliefs.”
On average, the 13 other elementary districts in North Cook County spend $4,440 more per student than District 15, whose 2009-2010 per-pupil expenses came to just $12,865. Nearby districts in Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, and Wheeling spend an average of $2,850 more per child per year.
District 15’s salary figures compare similarly. Salaries and benefits typically represent 80 to 85 percent of most school districts’ budgets, and District 15 is no different—82 percent of its money pays for its employees.
On average, though, administrators in those nearby districts receive salaries $24,444 larger than the average District 15 administrator, who makes $104,424 a year. The average District 15 teacher receives a salary of $73,774 a year—$445 more than the average of those nearby districts.
However, the average number of students in District 15 classes is three, four, and even five students larger than the student-to-teacher ratios in neighboring districts. In District 15, average class sizes range from 20.6 students in kindergarten to 28.2 students in eighth grade. In those nearby districts, class size averages range from as low as 16.3 students up to 22.2 students.
“We’re not an extravagant school district,” said Mr. Thompson. “We have not misused our funds, nor have we been negligent in handling our finances. In fact, we’ve been providing a quality education for kids, and we’ve been doing it at a reasonable expense.”
“The District finds itself in the current budgetary situation because our revenue has not kept up with our expenditures,” he concluded.
“In January, we will start to explore what we can do to bring our expenditures more in line with our revenue,” said Mr. Thompson. “That won’t be easy. As a community, we will have to work together to determine our priorities in order to find a workable solution for these financial problems.”
-Story Submitted by Community Consolidated School District 15