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Oswego passes budget with $2.6 million hole

Updated: October 26, 2012 6:11AM

The Oswego School Board passed a budget with a bit of a hole in it — about $2.6 million — to be plugged with cash from the rainy-day fund and reduced through further cuts.

The budget gap, according to Assistant Superintendent of Finance Paul O’Malley, was caused largely by a reduction in general state aid payments.

“The state is looking to detach from certain areas of funding the schools, so we have to be careful,” said O’Malley. “General states aid had a much bigger effect on the accounts. If it were still being funded (at the previous level), we would be having a much different conversation tonight, a positive one.”

The district’s new administrators have cut roughly $2.2 million over the past month, with the largest savings in purchases and supplies and to technology purchases. Administrators also conducted a line-by-line review of the budget. The previous administration had budgeted more money in a number of categories — including substitute teaching and utility bills — than the district had actually been paying.

“I’m glad to see it’s been reduced to $2.6 (million) from $5.5 (million); however, that’s still a significant deficit,” said resident and former school board member Lee Hoffer.

“I would encourage you to change your procedures, start getting some people to really dig into the financial aspects, so this doesn’t happen again. I have a problem with the idea that now you can take the working cash and use it to fill the budget. I don’t think it should ever be used as revenue to begin with.”

Jan Alexander, representing Kendall County Property Tax Revolt, said using the district’s reserves would still be preferable to raising taxes.

“We are encouraged to see now the deficit has been reduced,” Alexander said. “We’re asking this deficit be funded using our reserve funds to give our taxpayers financial relief. We have already suffered two large increases in the past two years.”

To shrink the budget hole as the year continues, the administration will be assembling an advisory committee of parents and other residents and community members to regularly update the district on added cuts.

“I am fully confident you will cut more, but we don’t have a plan,” said Ali Swanson. “It concerns me that we don’t have a plan.”

Swanson asked about the possibility of voting down the budget and its $2.6 million shortfall, but Illinois requires a school budgets to be passed by the end of September, which would not leave enough time for a second draft.

“Philosophically, I think it’s hard for any of us to approve an unbalanced budget,” said board member Brent Lightfoot. “The reality is I think everyone in the district has worked hard … There is no great solution, but this is a pretty darn good one.”

The budget was passed give in favor, with Swanson abstaining and Dave Behrens absent.

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