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D-158 projects gap in budget

ALGONQUIN – District 158’s tentative budget for 2013 projects a $1.1 million deficit, primarily because school officials are expecting the state to give less money in general aid that helps pay teacher salaries and benefits.

The projected deficit in the $79.7 million budget draft is a change from earlier this year, when officials projected a marginal surplus. But Chief Financial Officer Mark Altmayer said he adjusted the total after hearing that the state plans to distribute less general state aid to the district, as part of education cuts state lawmakers recently approved.

Like last year, the district also budgeted conservatively by deciding to withhold two state payments that mostly cover transportation and special education funding.

The $3 million in added money could shore up the deficit if the state pays the district on time, Altmayer said.

“The district has always taken the approach of ‘we are not going to spend it until we receive it,’ ” Altmayer said. “It’s a very conservative approach to budgeting.”

Altmayer will present the district board with the 2013 budget draft during its regular meeting today.

Despite the expected general aid drop from earlier projections, district officials still plan to receive roughly $1.3 million more in general aid than in 2012 because of increasing enrollment within the district.

Huntley High School is likely to be on the receiving end of more students attending the district, and officials have budgeted nearly $1.7 million for new hires, including teachers.

Overall, the district plans to spend almost $4 million more on teacher salaries and benefits than in 2012. That includes an assumed 2 percent increase for educators represented by the Huntley Education Association.

But that figure could change, depending on the outcome of ongoing contract negotiations with the administration and the teachers union.

As officials learn more about the education funding included in the new state budget, they will make minor tweaks in the coming months to revenues, which also could affect the projected deficit, Altmayer said.

After the tentative budget is revealed, officials will present the board with a final budget in late August, with the board likely to vote on it in September.

“At this point, I don’t have a lot of concern with the budget,” Altmayer said. “We have set ourselves up fairly well financially.”

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