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Dist. 233 business manager: $58m budget will be balanced

The District 233 proposed 2020-21 budget of $58.15 million will be balanced, according to Lawrence Cook, the district’s business manager.

At the same time, Cook stressed that “due to these unprecedented times, actual budgetary needs may result in additional savings or more spending” at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 15. The regular board meeting will immediately follow. The board is expected to vote on the proposed budget during the meeting.

Cook said total projected revenue is estimated at $58,153,000 with expenses estimated at $57,931,260. That will leave the district with a projected surplus of $221,740. 

The district is expected to receive $36,935,000 in property tax revenues, but Cook notes that tax collection, tax appeals and refunds may reduce the amount of taxes the district receives. Under property tax freeze legislation, taxing bodies can raise taxes 5 percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less.  Cook said this proposed budget is based on a CPI of 2.3 percent. 

In addition, the district will receive $16.42 million in state funding, $14.5 million in state Evidence Based Funding (EBF) and another $1.92 million in state aid.

The evidence-based formula is meant to help districts such as Homewood-Flossmoor District 233. It shifts payments from a general dollar amount per student to a formula that takes into account the tax burden. 

Bob Grossi, the Bloom Township school treasurer who handles school funds for H-F and other school districts in the South Suburbs, has told school board members the heavy property tax burden puts south suburban schools at the top of the list for state relief. The area is considered “property poor” because it doesn’t have a strong commercial and industrial base that would take some of the burden from homeowners.

Cook said District 233 is receiving $17,652,699 in EBF dollars but under its agreement the district is abating $3,152,699 that “will be returned to all taxing bodies in the form of property tax relief … leaving a balance of $14.5 million for the district operating funds.”

The Cook County Assessor’s Office is reassessing property values in the South Suburbs this year. Cook said the new assessment numbers will be used for next year’s budget.

Cook said the budget reflects a 2.63 percent salary increase for the staff at H-F, including administrators, teachers, clerical, instructional assistants and auxiliary workers.

The district will be making a final payment of $3,724,191 to Cosgrove Construction for the construction of the fine arts additions at H-F. Another theater space and classrooms for band, orchestra and choral groups were constructed, and former music rooms were remodeled for fine arts spaces. Work is projected to be completed Sept. 30. The board agreed to pay for the $13.98 million project from its reserve fund.  

Cook said at the end of the 2020-21 budget year the district is projected to have $51.3 million in reserves, which is equivalent to about 10.6 months of expenses. At the same time, Cook stressed that unforeseen expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic “may impact the reserves as the district works to keep all persons — staff, students, parents, community members — doing business in the district safe.”

Cook said the district’s outstanding debt of $23,697,401 for the remodeling of the North Building and construction of the fieldhouse will be paid off at the end of the 2031-32 school year. 

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