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H-F High reports budget of $61.8 million for 2021-22 school year

The District 233 school board is set to pass a $61.87 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year at its Sept. 21 board meeting.

The overall budget of $61.87 million shows $59.4 million in revenue leaving a deficit of $2.46 million. District 233 Business Manager Lawrence Cook said that drop in revenue is due to an error when the Cook County Clerk’s Office failed to include a tax abatement on last year’s property tax bills. The abatement appears on this year’s bills.

The district also maintains a reserve fund of $52.03 million that could cover an estimated 10 months of expenses.

Cook shared the projections during a District 233 Finance Committee meeting Aug. 17. The budget numbers show $35.98 million comes from property taxes, $2.67 million from other local revenue, $15.9 million from state support through the Evidence Based Funding program and $4.84 million in restricted funds and federal grants.

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.

The budget is posted on the H-F website and is on display in the District 233 business office in the North Building. A public hearing on the budget will be at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 21. The board’s regular meeting will follow the hearing.

Under property tax freeze legislation, taxing bodies can raise taxes 5% or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. Cook said this proposed budget is based on a CPI of 1.4% will be reflected when District 233 sets its tax levy in November.

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, including H-F, 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 this budget reflects District 233 abating $3.23 million that “will be returned to all taxing bodies in the form of property tax relief.”

Cook reminded members that the school board, would be seeing the Cook County clerk move to correct its accounting error. The school board accepted $2 million in state funding, but was required to refund a portion of that through tax abatement. The school board met those obligations in 2019 and 2020.

After the district met those obligations, the school board called for another tax abatement the following year. However, the county failed to include the tax abatement in 2019 tax bills. To correct the error, the county is deducting from H-F’s current tax collection. That abatement appears on tax bills residents received in August.

The budget shows $34.8 million in salaries, an increase from $31.4 million in 2020-21. Cook said the number reflects the 3% salary increase approved in the teachers’ contract, and the additional costs for coaching, extracurricular sponsor time, etc. that the district didn’t pay out last year when no one was on campus. The board hired a superintendent-elect and additional security.

The budget also shows $6.01 million in employee benefits; $8.37 million in purchased services, such as transportation, food service and cleaning service; $3.45 million in supplies and materials; $2 million in capital outlay for scheduled yearly maintenance projects; $3.25 million for out-of-district tuition for high-need students who are served by special schools; $3.28 million in debt payment; and several other smaller funds.

H-F’s finances have a AA+ rating from Standard & Poors. H-F was downgraded in 2019 from a AAA rating in part due to a poor economic base in the South Suburbs. The board is considering refunding its current debt to get a lower rate of interest on outstanding bonds. Cook said the board can’t take action on the bond refunding until the end of the fiscal year in June 2022.

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