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Although School District 202’s tentative budget for fiscal year 2012 is balanced, a familiar, but not very reassuring litany of financial facts accompanied Chief Financial Officer William Stafford’s presentation to the School Board at its meeting on June 27.

“This is a tentative budget, it’s a work in progress and we’ll be refining it over the summer,” said Mr. Stafford. He reminded the Board that there was not very much new in the budget compared to what had been reviewed several times earlier in the year, including the fact that the State of Illinois is $1.1 million behind on payments to the District. It is this fact, Mr. Stafford said, among others, which continues to raise concerns about whether more cuts will be needed to balance the budget next year and into the future.

Mr. Stafford said that the proposed FY 2012 budget is $74.6 million, representing a 0.4% increase over the FY 2011 budget, including all funds. About 87% of the budget is in the Operating Fund, which is proposed to increase about 1.2% over last year mostly due to salary increases of 3.46% and fringe benefit cost increases of 4.5%, according to Mr. Stafford’s presentation. Salaries and fringe benefits represent about 73% of operating expenses.

The tentative budget is balanced, according to the cover memo from Superintendent Eric Witherspoon accompanying the budget packet, and is the fifth such one he has presented to the Board since his appointment. It reflects $1.5 million in reductions already taken for the coming year, including administrative cuts and consolidations, non-replacement of early retiring staff, lower salaries of new hires and reductions in supplies and contractual services.

Mr. Stafford warned that if the State fails to pay the amount it owes the District, further cuts will be necessary to maintain a balanced budget, an approach he called “Plan B”. These measures might include further reductions in personnel, although less in the teaching area, more employee participation in health care costs, stipend reductions and reduce professional development and substitute costs.

Board member Deborah Graham said that she “wanted more detail” about possible cuts to professional development “before it happens.”

The budget hearing is scheduled for Sept. 12. Mr. Stafford said that a property tax update would be available at that time as well as more information about the status of State payments and as such, revenues would be adjusted accordingly. The entire tentative budget can be viewed on the District’s website at http://www.eths.k12.il.us/assets/1/Documents/FY12%20tentative%20budget.pdf