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Despite state shortfall, District 161 may end fiscal year in black

The budget, a new math curriculum and the pros and cons of hiring a firm to verify residency were tackled at this week’s Flossmoor District 161 Board of Education meeting. Also, the board honored student Diego Garcia, currently enrolled at SPEED SEJA (Special Education Joint Agreement) in Chicago Heights.

The budget, a new math curriculum and the pros and cons of hiring a firm to verify residency were tackled at this week’s Flossmoor District 161 Board of Education meeting.

While a formal budget hearing and adoption is scheduled for next month, the board heard a detailed presentation of what the budget may look like for fiscal year 2018. Frances LaBella, associate superintendent of business operations, said it’s possible the district may start the new fiscal year July 1 with a surplus, even though the state of Illinois owes $1.11 million to the district.

  Diego Garcia, center, was
  honored at the District 161 
  meeting for his use of learning 
  technologies at SPEED school. 
  With Diego are Jane Cornelius
  of SPEED S.E.J.A., left, and
  Fatima Garcia, Diego’s mother.

  (Photo by R.L. Anderson)
 

The district “may be able to end the year in the black,” LaBella added. “I stress ‘may.’”

LaBella explained the money owed by the state is not included in her budget calculations.

A surplus at the close of the current fiscal year will be contingent upon two fund transfers LaBella outlined for the board. Transportation funds of $2.5 million would be transferred to the education fund and $1 million to the operations and management fund.

Assuming the transfers are approved by the board, that state payments are not made and there are no unexpected major expenditures in June, LaBella indicated the estimated ending revenue for fiscal year 2017 will be $31.59 million. She explained the estimate also anticipates the district receiving $892,549 in general state aid and $200,000 in interest; receipts she said are forthcoming.

LaBella forecast final expenditures for the fiscal year at $29.77 million.

For 2018, LaBella said revenue will be flat, with the expectation the state will make only two of its scheduled four payments in state-mandated categories. Estimated fiscal year 2018 revenue is $33.12 million, with projected expenditures of $33.85 million, the lack of state funding leaving a deficit of $736,499.

“This can be worked on,” LaBella said of the variables in the budget.

In other business, Amabel Crawford, director of learning and instruction, offered an update to help the administration recommend a new math curriculum.  Two possible math curricula have been tested during the school year.

A committee of staff and teachers has been evaluating the programs and researching how they have worked at other school districts. The committee also examined how teachers will be provided the professional development to implement the new curriculum. The committee will have a final meeting this week to finish its recommendation.

Crawford said the board will be asked to approve the committee’s recommendation next month.

The board meeting also included another discussion on the administration’s recommendation to hire a firm to help manage its residency verification process. The proposal is for National Investigations Inc. to verify the residency of families with children enrolled in the district.

In April, the previous Board of Education failed to approve the proposal on a split vote. The board was reconstituted with three new members May 1.

National Investigation’s database gathers information from the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles, the Illinois criminal and civil court systems, the U.S. Postal Service database and three credit bureaus.

Board Secretary Merle Huckabee repeated her earlier concern about the firm’s use of credit bureau data.

“This is what really bothers me,” Huckabee said. “It’s a huge concern to me.”

LaBella explained only mailing addresses, not financial data, is gleaned from the credit bureaus as part of the firm’s residency investigations. LaBella added National Investigations would provide a more efficient way for the district to verify residency, saving considerable staff time with more reliable results.

Huckabee said she questions the accuracy of address information from the credit bureaus.

Whether the board will again formally consider the proposal is uncertain. Board members Stephen Paredes and John Simmons expressed support for the idea. Huckabee is not in favor. Other board members didn’t indicate their position at Monday’s meeting, but the board was unable to agree upon a date to place the proposal on a future agenda.

Also, the board honored student Diego Garcia, currently enrolled at SPEED SEJA (Special Education Joint Agreement) in Chicago Heights.

Robin Latman, director of special education, said Diego has used technology to help increase his participation in school and to learn new words.

Jane Cornelius, assistive technology specialist at SPEED, said Diego uses Touchchat on an iPad to participate “in various classroom activities, to express himself when frustrated and to communicate choices.”

The board presented a certificate to Diego for his achievement.

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