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Flossmoor school board considers 2020 budget numbers

The Flossmoor School Board heard a presentation on District 161’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget and a breakdown of its different funding sources on Aug. 26.
The district’s preliminary budget anticipates $35,480,215 in revenue and $35,971,498 in expenses, leaving an operating deficit of $491,333. The total deficit after construction costs is $1,497,333.
Despite having an unbalanced budget, the district does not have to file a deficit reduction plan with the state because it has more than three times the amount of the deficit in reserves. 
The board will host a public hearing and vote on the final budget during its Sept. 9 meeting. It will take place at 7 p.m. that evening at the Normandy Villa administration building. 
District 161 Finance Director Frances LaBella said the largest revenue source for the district is local property taxes, making up 72 percent ($25.6 million) of the budget, while state funding makes up 23 percent ($8.3 million) and federal grants account for the remaining 5 percent ($1.6 million). 
For the 2019-20 school year, the district is due to receive the second half of the 2018 tax levy as well as the first installment of the 2019 levy. 
LaBella said the district can assume a 95 percent collection rate on property taxes for FY 2020. This is consistent with the average collection rate over the past five years.
Close to 99 percent had previously been assumed for the past five-year period, but this year the district was unexpectedly hit with $1.4 million in property tax appeals dating back to 2013.
“The beautiful part of Cook County is they are really behind on their refunds, so we didn’t see any of the refunds come until this year,” LaBella said. “We had $1.4 million worth of refunds come off the top of our taxes this year.”
The district is only made aware of property tax appeals greater than $100,000, so appeals from local homeowners are not accounted for until they go through. 

When they do, the money homeowners receive comes out of the district’s current year collections, LaBella said. 

Another number to consider is the district’s 5 percent loss in cost factor, she said.
“What loss in cost does is it essentially increases your levy to the point of saying, you know you’re not going to get 100 percent of collection, but you have to collect the property taxes in order to pay your bonds and interests,” LaBella said. “You’re required to, and if you don’t get enough taxes to make your interest payments, you start falling behind.”
She said they would take a closer look at loss in cost when diving into the levy numbers later in the year.
She also explained that the state uses an evidence-based funding model that considers student demographics and other factors to create an adequacy target for student outcomes.
District 161 is at 70 percent of the adequacy target, putting it in the Tier II category.
For example, the district has 133 fulltime, regular education teachers, while the state’s model says it should have 153.
“We’re low, but remember this is assuming 100 percent adequacy funding, and we’re only at 70 percent,” LaBella said. “With the exception of four other school districts in South Cook County, we are actually putting more teachers in classrooms.”
This year the district will see an additional $185,000 that the state has added into the formula for a total of $6.7 million and will be asked to come up with a spending plan for that money, she said.
Other funding sources include mandated state categorical funding and grants and federal Title I, Title II and special education grants.

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