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A tentative budget for the 2014-15 school year was presented to the District 202 Board of Education at their May 29 meeting. While the initial budget is balanced, actions at the state level could ultimately impact what Evanston Township High School has to spend next year, says Bill Stafford, the District’s chief financial officer.

The budget includes $79.7 million in expenditures, which is 2.6% more than last year. The operating budget is $69,989,000, also a 2.6% increase over last year.  

Property taxes make up 85% of the District’s operating revenues. The rest comes from state aid, federal funds and investments.

The tentative budget shows operating funds of nearly $70 million ($69,989,000), 95% of the overall budget. Personnel costs account for the largest chunk — 67% — of the operating funds. The budget shows an increase in salaries of 4.32% because of contract obligations and special education mandates that dictated an increase in personnel.  

The budget sets aside $4 million for capital improvement funds to cover “improved lighting and safety measures as well as new STEM labs.”

Expenditures for supplies and energy are down, due in part to the change in summer school from five to four days a week. Revenue from student fees is up. The Activity Fee, which has not changed in five years, went up $5, from $85-90.Technology fees increased by $50 to cover the cost of the new Chromebooks.

“We are very fortunate,” said Mr. Stafford, as “two-thirds of schools are having to submit unbalanced budgets,” with expenses exceeding revenues. But the state of Illinois’ uncertain budget is a concern for the District. General State Aid has already been prorated to an 89% level. The state legislature is considering not extending the added income tax, which would result in even deeper education funding reductions. Pension reform, currently being challenged in court, may require school districts to kick in more money for teacher retirement funds.

Additionally, the District is also “under the grip of tax caps that do not keep up with the increased costs of supplies, energy, services, health benefits and employee compensation,” states a memo from Dr. Eric Witherspoon to the Board.

In the memo, Dr. Witherspoon describes several initiatives reflected in the budget. The 2014-15 school year, he says, will usher in a “new era of technological learning,” with all incoming freshmen receiving new Chromebook computers. Partnerships will start or continue: Northwestern University will be involved with STEM and other initiatives; the community and local businesses, with the new Geometry for Construction class. New wellness initiatives for both staff and students will promote healthier lifestyles while helping to reduce health insurance costs for the District. Increased interventions, such as Restorative Justice and alternatives to suspension, will help support students with behavior problems, and Systems of Support will continue to provide personalized attention to “raise achievement for all students.”

A public hearing on the budget will be held at the Sept. 8 Board meeting. The final budget will be approved during the Sept. 22 meeting.

“Evanston Township High School is one of the premier high schools in the nation,” said Dr Witherspoon in his memo to the Board. “This budget reflects the high value we place on educating all students, on raising academic achievement for all students, and on literacy, numeracy and well-being.”