Four large signs likely in efforts to warn truckers about Vollmer Road viaduct

Long-range planning helped Homewood–Flossmoor District 233 pass its 13th consecutive balanced budget, according to Ken Parchem, the district’s business manager.

State funding has dropped the past five years, but the school board — working with Parchem — has managed to reduce expenses to meet the financial challenges. At its September board meeting, the board approved a budget of $53.4 million and gave kudos to Parchem for his outstanding work.

“For us it starts with long-range financial planning and (that) was developed with the concept of let’s prepare for the worst-case scenario,” Parchem explained. The school board agreed to create a 10-month reserve fund that currently has $43 million. 

“I like to say that despite all these challenges, we’re still having balanced budgets.  We know the state’s financial condition and it’s not going to get better, so let’s have a plan in place,” he added.  He is already strategizing for the 2016-17 budget with David Mayer, Jody Scariano and Tim Wenckus, the board’s finance committee members.

Parchem’s numbers show the 2015-16 budget has $52.82 million in revenues: $38.3 million in real estate taxes; $7.53 million in state aid; $3.6 million in other local revenue, including tuition from summer school, driver’s education fees, textbook rentals and food sales; and $3.37 million in restricted state and federal grants.

Expenses total $52.1 million, including salaries and benefits of more than $32 million, and $11.9 million for services, supplies and materials.

Parchem said the district works at keeping expenses down knowing that it won’t see much new revenue. Because of state-imposed tax caps, in place since 1995, property taxes only go up to meet the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 5 percent — whichever is less. Parchem said this year that means tax revenues are only going up 1.5 percent to meet CPI.

And the district has been hit hard by state aid reduction. The state promises to support with $6,119 in state aid the education of each child in Illinois. That is called the foundation level. That number has not risen since 2009-10. Even with the foundation level frozen, the state has consistently reduced its share of support.

“The last time we got full support from the state was in 2009,” Parchem said, when H-F received $8.38 million in state aid. Every year since, state aid has dropped. This year, the district is receiving just $7.6 million—just 87 percent of what the state promised.

Parchem will continue his long-range forecasting to develop future H-F budgets.

“I’ll use current state numbers and forecast to the best of our knowledge; five years is a long enough window,” he said.

Parchem hopes to continue the H-F track record of AAA ratings from Standard & Poor’s. The district is one of only 69 school districts in the country to receive this rating. That highest designation was essential when the district sold bonds in 2010 to finance its sports and recreation center that opened in 2014.

H-F also received the “financial recognition” designation from the State of Illinois 10 of the past 12 years.  This is the highest financial score awarded by the state.

Community Calendar

News by email

Subscribe to The Latest (daily headlines email)

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Free weekly newsletter

Subscribe to The Weeks (weekly newsletter)

* indicates required
Most read stories this week