Dist. U-46 budget brings few comments from public

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The public didn't have much to say at Monday's public hearing on Elgin Area School District U-46's 2010-11 budget.

That may be because the state's second-largest district is expected to pass a balanced budget this year - though not without a cost.

The cost of the balanced budget is hundreds of laid-off teachers, which translates into larger classes across U-46 schools this year. Additional reductions resulted in fewer support staff members, less frequent cleaning of buildings and cuts in compensation for teachers and administrators.

With those cutbacks, the district is expecting to spend $456.7 million this year and receive $458.8 million, leaving a projected surplus of $2.1 million. No one addressed the board regarding the budget Monday.

While that surplus is tiny by U-46 standards, it will grow with the infusion of several million dollars from the federal government as part of a $26 billion bill designed to save teacher jobs.

The Illinois State Board of Education originally estimated U-46 would receive more than $4.6 million in federal aid tied to the jobs bill, but state officials now say that sum will probably be lower, according to a U-46 spokesman.

"We're still projecting to get some of this (education) jobs money, but we don't know exactly how much we're going to get," U-46 spokesman Tony Sanders said.

Still, the money will do little to chip away at the district's accumulated deficit of about $40 million. The state still owes the district $11 million from last year, which, if not paid, would only add to that sum.

While U-46 officials do not anticipate major cash flow issues yet, they have budgeted for the possibility that they will have to take out short-term loans to cover payroll, including $700,000 in interest costs associated with the loans in this year's budget, Sanders said.

A final vote on the budget is expected on Sept. 27. The budget must be submitted to the state by the end of this month.

You can view the budget at u-46.org or at the district's offices, 355 E. Chicago, St., Elgin.