A Dec. 19 letter from Devon Horton, Superintendent of School District 65, to the school community provided a new timeline for the community to provide input concerning the District’s plan to balance operating expenses and operating revenues in the coming years.

The District’s latest financial projections forecast that it will operate at a surplus of $67,243 in its fiscal year ending June 30, 2022 (FY’22), and then operate at deficits of $3.4 million in FY’23; $6.6 million in FY’24; $9.6 million in FY’ 25; and $12.4 million in FY’26. The accompanying chart illustrates the growth in projected deficits.

At a Dec. 9 Finance Committee meeting, members of the District 65 School Board appeared to concur that it would be necessary to cut about $10 million in expenses to balance revenues and expenses by the 2024-25 (FY’25) school year, but several Board members said they still wanted some additional information.

There was no discussion about how much should be cut for the next school year, 2021-22 (FY’22), or in each subsequent year. While Referendum Funds have been set aside to address future deficits, the plan is to preserve the Referendum Funds and to truly balance the District’s operating revenues and its operating expenses. For an article about that meeting, click here. 

Prior to the meeting, the District prepared a one-sheet document called “District 65 Financial Facts, Published Dec. 2, 2020,” which is posted on the District’s website. That document says, “To address COVID-19 related expenses and a resulting deficit for the FY’23 budget, the District must consider reductions that could total $1 – 1.5 million for the upcoming school year.”

No one brought up that statement at the Dec. 9 Finance Committee meeting, and it is thus unclear whether the target will be $1 – 1.5 million for the coming school year.

As of yet, the District has not proposed any specific cuts for the coming school year.

Dr. Horton discussed a timeline at the Dec. 9 meeting for the community to provide input, but that timeline has been modified. The new timeline is as follows.

The Thought Exchange 

Between Jan. 4 and 13, staff, students, parents/caregivers and the community may participate in a “Thought Exchange.”  “This is an opportunity for our community to virtually connect through a focused discussion topic,” says the District. “Thought Exchange is a tool rooted in equity and a platform that has the potential to bring all voices to the table. There is no one right answer and no one voice is louder or carries more weight than another. …   The perspectives and insight gathered from the Thought Exchange will be used to support budget planning conversations.”

The District says, participants will be able to see the thoughts of other participants and to “star” thoughts they like. They may also see which thoughts are rated highest by others and emerging themes.

The District has not yet published the question or discussion topic for the Thought Exchange.

Community Cafes

Between late January and early February, all residents in District 65’s boundaries and District 65 staff members are invited to attend virtual cafes hosted by District 65 School Board Members. “This will serve as an opportunity for informal conversation and discussion around the District’s financial outlook, budget reduction process, and priorities as we plan for the District’s future,” says the District. “The virtual sessions will be held on different days and times to increase access for community participation. Spanish interpretation will be available.”

A schedule for the meeting will be published in the future.

Community Survey

“In early February, the District 65 community will have the opportunity to share their feedback via a survey. Details will be shared as the survey window approaches,” says the District.  

Engagement of Staff

In addition to the foregoing, “meetings may be held with school, District, and union leaders and other staff groups to support collaboration and understanding regarding budget-related decisions.”

Finance Committee Meetings

People may also submit comments at the District’s Finance Committee meetings. The public comment must be submitted in advance to the School Board Secretary. All virtual meetings are streamed live and are also available by visiting the District’s ‘Meeting Coverage‘ webpage. 

The next two Finance Committee meetings are scheduled for Feb. 8 and March 8.