The Southtown Star

New Lenox schools deficit blamed on state

Friday, August 06, 2010

New Lenox School District 122 expects to have a deficit of up to $1.6 million in its 2010-11 budget. As is the case with many Southland districts, officials say the budget would be balanced - or even better - if the district were receiving funds owed to it by the state.

The board and officials discussed the budget Wednesday at a committee meeting. The final budget is expected to be approved at the Sept. 15 board meeting, district business manager Harold Huang said.

The district's tentative budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 projects $55.4 million in revenue and expenditures of $57 million. Last year, the board approved a budget with about $56.4 million in revenue and expenditures of about $58 million.

The bulk of the projected deficit was the result of the $2 million construction projects last year at Oakview Elementary School, 809 N. Cedar Road, and Haines Elementary School, 155 Haines Ave., which were being paid for with bonds the district had sold in 2004 and 2005.

The district ended the fiscal year June 30 with total revenue of $55.9 million and $56.6 million in expenditures, officials said. As of June 30, the state owed the district nearly $3.4 million, which would have given the district a surplus, Huang said.

In January, the board approved $2.6 million in budget reductions, including eliminating the director of curriculum position, four teaching positions, three teacher's aide positions, four reading specialists and three speech pathologists in addition to charging students fees to participate in band and orchestra.

District officials will continue to refine the budget, and it is likely to change again before it's adopted, Huang said.

"This is probably planning for the worst-case scenario, and everything can get better," he said.

The district recently learned it likely will receive $400,000 more from the state than projected in the tentative budget and $125,000 from Lincoln-Way Special Education District 843, Huang said. The additional $525,000 in revenue is not in the tentative budget but will be in the final version, he said.

At its Sept. 1 meeting, the district also will look into refinancing some debt at a lower interest rate, Huang said.