Minooka Grade School Board looks to trim deficit
By Kris Stadalsky For The Herald-News October 1, 2012 9:44AM
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:08AM
MINOOKA — To help reduce a $3.5 million deficit projected for this fiscal year, Minooka Grade School District will face another deficit reduction plan, Superintendent Al Gegenheimer said.
The district cut multiple positions three years ago, from teachers to cooks to office staff, and one assistant principal. Some fees were increased and teachers’ supply budgets were slashed, all in an effort to reduce the deficit by $1.6 million for the 2010-2011 school year.
The plan actually created $2.4 million in budget reductions over two years.
“Our last deficit reduction plan was difficult because it affected people,” Gegenheimer said. “This one is going to be even more difficult.”
What the reductions will be aren’t clear.
“At this point in time we have met with the administrative team and discussed ways to shave expenses,” he said. “Our problem is, comparatively speaking to other schools, we are not overspending.”
The funds with deficits are the education fund at $1.5 million, the transportation fund at about $1.1 million and an additional $1 million in a contingency fund put aside for unplanned repairs or other building problems.
Deficits can be tied to the area’s declining equalized assessed valuation, lost revenue owed the district in unpaid property taxes and delayed property taxes payments, Gegenheimer said during a public hearing on the proposed budget.
“In the last two years the district has lost $100 million in EAV,” Gegenheimer said.
The transportation deficit is due to the purchase of land and projected construction costs for the district’s new transportation facility it will share with Minooka High School District.
Eighty percent to 90 percent of district expenses are for personnel, Gegenheimer said.
“To cut the kind of money we are looking at, there’s only one way to do it. You are talking about people and programs,” Gegenheimer said. “There’s a level of quality people expect from our schools and we have done that efficiently. But the reality is it doesn’t meet our revenue.”
On a positive note, the district has healthy fund balances both going in and coming out of the fiscal year, Gegenheimer said.
Board member Doug Martin said that while the district has healthy fund balances, at a deficit rate of $2 million a year it would burn through the money in a couple years. He would like to see steps taken now to reduce the deficit perhaps by half, which could help get the district through the rough economy.
“I don’t think the whole deficit has to go, but the burn rate is too great,” Martin said.
The budget was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Martin voting against.
Several teachers were commended for applying for and receiving $15,000 in grants through the Shoot For A’s program to be used in the classrooms.
The board saved another $300,000 this year by decentralizing from the Grundy County Special Education Cooperative.
The district’s total operating budget for 2012-13 is $30 million, Gegenheimer said.
“We can’t continue to operate in the red,” he said.