Despite persistent problems with getting payments of over $1 million from the State of Illinois and a 2010 Consumer Price Index of 1.5 percent affecting tax caps, Chief Financial Officer William Stafford told the District 202 School Board on June 11 that the proposed FY 2013 budget will be balanced and at $75.2 million, slightly below the FY 2012 budget. Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said, “This budget is balanced … for the sixth straight year.”

In addition, Mr. Stafford also said that there would be a “minor” deficit in FY 2014 and a balanced budget in the two following years. “We’ve done what we needed to do to achieve real financial stability,” he said.

In accordance with the District’s “value-based budgeting,” administrators say they strive to keep the majority of budget reductions in areas other than those directly connected to students.

Instruction is the top priority, reported Mr. Stafford, as is maintaining a “reasonable” student-teacher ratio and avoiding personnel layoffs “whenever possible.”

Mr. Stafford said those reductions included $1.5 million in non-certificated personnel, use of the IMRF Early Retirement Incentive, and reductions in supplies and contractual services.

In addition, the District has continued to save on energy costs due to the four-day summer school schedule, reduced overtime, food and postage.

Administrators said that concerns remain about the future with regard to the State of Illinois budget problems, interest rates and possible transfer of responsibility for teacher pensions from the state to local communities.

Board member Deborah Graham asked if there was a possibility that if pension responsibility were to be transferred to local communities, whether tax caps would be lifted in exchange. Mr. Stafford acknowledged that he was not sure, but that Ms. Graham had “raised a good issue.”

Board member Jonathan Baum commended Mr. Stafford for “really tightening up on things away from the classroom. “I’m glad you’re projecting conservatively. It gives us a better cushion,” he added.

The final budget will be presented on Sept. 10 and voted on at the Sept. 24 Board meeting.