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District 300 reveals 2015 budget with 'unpredictable' state revenue

ALGONQUIN – District 300 officials on Monday revealed a tentative 2015 budget that includes 20 new full-time teacher hires and a $1.22 million operating surplus.

But Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin cautioned that the state's hazy financial picture could alter the Carpentersville-based school district's $211.9 million spending plan after the November election for Illinois governor is settled.

"It's hard to build a budget when you have unpredictable revenue sources," Harkin told the board. "Fortunately for us ... we do have [reserves] that we would prefer not to use, but we may be in a position that after Jan. 1, depending on what happens with the income tax, we might have a depreciation."

Harkin after the meeting said the district doesn't know what to expect with educational aid from the state, even though officials currently budgeted a $500,000 increase in general state aid because of enrollment increases across District 300.

But the money the state has committed to education could change after the November election, Harkin said. State lawmakers could vote on the expiring 2011 income tax increase during a January lame-duck session.

"We are going to make some stabs in the dark to what we believe [state revenues] are going to look like," Harkin said. "Historically, our funding source has been fairly stable from the state. If every time we heard something drastic was going to happen and we reacted to it, we would be doing a disservice to our students and families."

The tentative budget includes $213.1 million in projected operating revenue and $211.9 million in operating expenses. Harkin presented the plan during the board's first-ever workshop, designed for members to ask staff questions about agenda items weeks before casting votes.

On the spending side, the budget proposal includes $1 million to hire 20 new full-time teachers at various grade levels. The new hires will help the district lower class sizes, partly because of the three-year contract with LEAD 300 that expires next summer.

The budget also added money to cover negotiated salary increases for teachers, staff and administrators.

Harkin plans on updating the board about changes to the financial plan at the end of August. The board would then take a final vote on the budget in September.

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