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H-F High board approves budget, asks for additional efficiencies

The District 233 school board gave unanimous support to a $58.15 million budget at its Sept. 15 board meeting.

Business Manager Lawrence Cook said total projected revenue is estimated at $58.15 million with expenses estimated at $57.93 million. That will leave the district with a projected surplus of $221,740. 

The district is expected to receive $36.93 million 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 to 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, $14.50 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. 

During the public hearing on the budget, several board members asked that the district set goals to reduce expenses, possibly for the next five years.

Annette Bannon suggested the board’s Finance Committee, or the board as a whole, should consider a 5 percent decrease, or a set dollar amount target.  Member Nathan Legardy asked how she got to the 5 percent number. 

Bannon said it didn’t need to be 5 percent. She said she raised the issue because “moving forward we know we’re going to have some financial constraints. I think it’s a wise move to consider doing something like that.”  

Member Beth Larocca said, “My concern is the rising expenditures and the link in the revenues maybe are not where they need to be. I would like to see us try to be a little more efficient, also in spending.” She acknowledged the administration has been making efforts at efficiency “but I’d like us to try a little bit more because I’m concerned that in a year or two it’s going to be much more difficult to cut.”

Member Gerald Pauling, who serves on the board’s Finance Committee with Larocca and board president Steve Anderson, said the administration has been “diligent with the district’s resources and there was a lot of effort devoted to containing costs, finding cost savings.”

Pauling said Cook “went back at least three times that I can think of to identify additional savings.”

“Once again we’re presenting a balanced budget in a very trying financial situation. So I just wanted the completeness of our efforts in this regard to be noted as part of the budget discussion,” Pauling said.

Anderson said it can be hard to find savings when 80 percent of the budget is personnel costs. He credited Superintendent Von Mansfield for pushing the district to join cooperatives and other programs to reduce the cost through large purchase agreements.

Anderson told Larocca she raised a good point in trying to find greater efficiencies.

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