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Financial picture still hazy for School District 204

Kathy Birkett

Kathy Birkett

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Updated: March 14, 2013 6:26AM

Money is on the minds of a lot of people these days, and that includes the leadership at Indian Prairie School District 204.

The financial forecast for School District 204 was the highlight of Monday’s meeting of the Board of Education, as Assistant Superintendent for Business Jay Strang offered about a 15-minute presentation before taking questions on the matter.

Strang’s message made it clear that, once again, the district is potentially going to have to tighten its belt.

“The Consumer Price Index came in lower than expected and has created about a $1.3 million deficit in our fund balance,” Strang said.

“Over the years, it has averaged about 2.5 percent and petroleum and natural gas prices really fell at the end of the year and lowered the CPI. We’re still planning to move ahead with $2.5 million in technology improvements (though).”

Strang said the district has already had to trim $40 million from its budget the past few years and will have to look at addressing the shortfall through other revenue sources as well as through cuts in operational expenses and making sure staff are being used efficiently.

Those measures, however, remain projections as the district gets ready to formally begin its budget process for next fiscal year. Strang noted that state aid remains in the balance depending upon any pension reform. The district is again set to receive $14 million in state aid, the same as last year.

“A lot depends on what the state is going to do with pensions and whether it plans to shift more of the funding onto the schools,” Strang said.

“The governor is projecting a $400 million reduction (in pension funding) due to failed pension reform. For us, that could mean an additional $800,000 we’d have to fund as a district.”

Superintendent Kathryn Birkett, who met with state officials last week, said “the picture regarding funding is beginning to get a little clearer” and that the final state budget would be determined by May. She added that any extra pension supplement that would have to be paid by local school districts would not likely be implemented before the 2014-2015 school year.

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