Education, Local News

Property tax revenue boosts SD161’s prospects for balanced budget 

Fran LaBella, associate superintendent of business operations at Flossmoor School District 161, offered a favorable preview of next year’s proposed budget during the board meeting on May 31.

The district’s tentative budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year is $33.9 million. During a detailed presentation, LaBella said the budget is expected to be balanced, with expenditures outpacing revenues by only about $172,000.

“To me that’s flat, because I can close that with my eyes closed,” LaBella said.

To illustrate the next fiscal year projections, LaBella went through the current year’s revenues and expenditures. 

She began with property tax revenues, which have contributed to a positive bottom line for the district’s current budget.

“Local property taxes (came) in much higher this year than we had anticipated,” LaBella said. “A huge part of that is from prior collections for the current year. The second part of that is a lot less property tax refunds than we’ve seen in the last couple of years. 

“The combination has been a good one. We’re positive to budget almost $1 million.”

The district received about $23,040,055 million in property taxes, $913,681 more than what it had budgeted for this year. In the tentative budget for next year, property tax revenue is expected to remain about the same.

In other revenues, $3.7 million is expected from the federal government in 2023, with more than $900,000 coming from a federal COVID-related grant called the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. 

The ESSER grant is paid out over three years, dropping from the budget in 2025. 

Board president Carolyn Griggs wondered whether the district could consider keeping the staff members hired with ESSER funds, which include three math specialists and two social emotional learning specialists.

“What happens if we want to keep all those positions from ESSER?” she said.

LaBella offered to compile a list of all ESSER-funded expenditures, to consider possibly finding room for them in the 2025 budget, when the grant expires.

“Those are the big decisions you’re going to have to make,” LaBella told the board in reference to the issue.

To pay staff salaries in 2023, the district has budgeted $21.1 million, and another $5.2 million is budgeted for employee benefits. 

Other expenditures in the tentative budget include:

  • $6.5 million for purchased services. LaBella said the estimate reflects anticipated continuing increases in the consumer price index, inflating the price of certain goods. “We know we’ll probably be paying a lot more for things like electricity, heat and everything else that is oil based,” she said.
  • $2.5 million for supplies and materials.
  • $1.6 million in capital outlay, which relates to building costs, site improvement and construction. In the current year’s budget, capital outlay funded a new pre-K playground at Flossmoor Hills Elementary School.
  • $3 million for LaBella said largely will fund bond interest payments and special education for children taught outside the district.
  • $248,000 in non-capital equipment.
  • $8,000 in termination benefits. 

A copy of the full tentative budget for ’22-’23 school year will be turned over to the board at its July meeting, LaBella said. The district’s finance committee will also review it during that time.

The finalized budget will be presented to the board in full detail at its August board meeting, when it will be up for consideration and a vote.

“This is your overall (look), based on major, macro assumptions,” LaBella said. “My staff and I will now dive into the micro, line by line, person by person, detail by detail.”

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