Daily Journal

BOURBONNAIS — The Bourbonnais Elementary District 53 School Board approved a fiscal year 2021 budget Sept. 29 which projects about $26.8 million in revenue and $27.4 million in expenses, with a deficit of roughly $544,000.

Dennis Crawford, chief school business official for the district, presented the budget to the school board last Monday and explained that the district’s revenue will be down in several areas.

He said he prepared the budget as if school will return to normal, pre-pandemic operations.

“This was a very difficult budget, probably the hardest that I’ve worked on,” Crawford said. “With COVID, there are so many unknowns, as we all have experienced; there are so many things that come about that we never thought would happen.”

The district is expected to see about a $235,000 increase in tax revenue because of a rise in the Consumer Price Index, with a total projected tax levy of $15.7 million.

Evidence-based funding coming from the state will remain flat from last year, with a projected amount of about $7 million.

“We had hoped to get some new tier funding, either Tier 1 or Tier 2,” Crawford said. “That level has been frozen by the state so that as our costs go up, we don’t get any more money. We just operate off of what we had last year.”

Crawford said the district operates at 62 percent of the money the state says is adequate funding, but with the loss of additional funds he expects that might drop to 60 to 61 percent.

“That’s probably a big concern of mine with the budget,” he said. “As all these expenses come, we expect the state to kind of help us out and give us the money to close that gap of what we call adequacy.”

Crawford said he projects a decline in state categorical grants, mainly because the district is not spending as much on transportation as it usually spends, so it won’t be reimbursed that extra money.

The district is receiving $477,000 from the federal CARES Act for COVID-19 expenses, though this is expected to be a one-time only payment, he said.

Additionally, the district is expected to receive about $300,000 in fees, about a $31,000 decline from last year.

This is due to a decline in enrollment, particularly with some families making decisions not to enroll their students in school because of COVID-19, Crawford said.

He also said he is concerned with the timing of families paying their fees. Normally, the district will receive 70 percent of fees at the beginning of the school year during registrations. This year, the district has only received about 15 percent of fees so far.

“That’s a concern, so we are going to be working on some communications to go out to try to get some of those registration fees caught up,” he said.

Another decline in revenue will be from interest payments. About $75,000 total is expected in interest payments, compared with about $169,500 last year.

“A lot of this is due to the market,” Crawford explained. “It’s a great time to be a home buyer with record-low interest rates, but it is a horrible time to have money grow in a bank.”

On the expenses side, the district is looking to pay about $14.7 million in employee salaries, up from $14 million last year. The increase reflects changes in two bargaining agreements, and the amount will likely increase again when negotiations with the teachers union are complete.

The district is budgeting significantly less money for capital projects this year, about $1.6 million. Last year, the district spent $8.3 million.

The notable decline is because two major projects were in the budget last year: the addition at Liberty Intermediate and the HVAC system at Noel LeVasseur Elementary.

Crawford noted that the HVAC system at LeVasseur is installed and operational, and the project as a whole is almost complete. With this project coming to a close, every space in the district now has air conditioning, he said.

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.