On Aug. 11, Kathy Zalewski, business manager for School District 65, presented financial projections showing an operating surplus of $63,041 for FY‘16, and then deficits of $3.6 million in FY‘17, $4.7 million in FY‘18 and $6.8 million in FY‘19.
These projections are in line with those presented in June, but represent a huge improvement from the deficit scenario projected six months ago in February 2014. The turnaround is attributable in large part to reducing the cost for employee benefits by shifting employee health and life insurance to the Educational Benefit Cooperative, said Ms. Zalewski.
The projections are still based on many unknowns and many assumptions. They include the rate of teacher and other employees’ salary increases for FY‘17 and beyond (after the union contracts expire); the property tax caps that will apply to the 2015 levy year and subsequent years; and whether the State legislature will shift a portion of teacher pension costs from the State to school districts and whether it will revamp the method used to allocate State funding to school districts.
Ms. Zalewski said the projections assume the State will shift pension costs from the State to school districts and they build in an expense of about $400,000 for FY’16, $800,000 for FY’17, $1.2 million for FY’18, and $1.6 million for FY’19.
The projections do not build in any amounts to account for the possibility that the State may revamp the way it funds education. The Senate passed Senate Bill 16 in late May, but it was not put up for a vote in the House before the spring session ended. If enacted into law, the bill would reduce state funding to District 65 by about $6.5 million per year according to calculations made by the Illinois State Board of Education. The reduction would be phased in over four years.
“Senate Bill 16 is still very much alive,” said Ms. Zelewski. If passed, “This is going to be devastating to us,” she said.