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Fox River Grove District 3 planning budget with slight deficit

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 12:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 11:27 p.m. CDT

FOX RIVER GROVE – School District 3 is planning an $8.1 million operating budget for this school year. The budget, however, has a projected slight deficit, which might not come to fruition.

Superintendent Tim Mahaffy said the district is projecting a 1.07 percent shortfall, or roughly $104,000. "When all is said and done, I think we'll be balanced," Mahaffy said. "We have to cushion [for] the district's special education costs."

The school board is scheduled to vote on the district budget next month.

Mahaffy said the district in fiscal 2013-14 projected a 5.48 percent deficit. But finances were better, and the district ran a 3.51 percent deficit.

"If we can have the same type of experience that we had last year, when it wasn't all rosy, I think we're going to have a balanced budget, if not in the end have a little bit of a surplus," Mahaffy said during a recent board meeting.

Last year the district received five categorical grant payments for items such as transportation and special education. The fifth payment ended up being a windfall as the state was caught up with payments.

"They've always been behind for the longest time," Mahaffy said.

The same isn't expected this time, and the district is only budgeting for three categorical grant payments at $73,900 each.

The budget includes a 3 percent increase to the base salary for certified staff members.

The district is down one full-time equivalent certified staff member and two noncertified FTE staff members from last year.

Leading up to the school year, the district installed a new phone system and rehabbed the boys restroom at the middle school.

The washroom repairs were done by district staff, which saved $15,000 to $20,000 in labor costs, Mahaffy said. The budget plan includes abating money later in the year from the tax levy, but that is a decision that still needs to be made.

"If we don't abate, we'll be balanced," Mahaffy said.

The school district this year has just under 490 students, which includes 22 students who are placed out of district for special education needs, Mahaffy said.

The district has reached its maximum property tax rate in its education fund and to help cover costs. The district plans to transfer money from other funds.

"You're not able to get what you normally get in the education fund," Mahaffy said. "You can't come close to getting what CPI will give you because of that maximum tax rate."

The district likes to have fund balances of at least 40 percent of its annual expenditures in any given fund.

So, the district plans to transfer money from its working cash, operations and maintenance, and transportation funds into its education fund.

The other funds would remain healthy. The operations and maintenance fund alone still would have about a year and half worth of savings if the district wanted to carry out projects, Mahaffy said.

"You should not have to worry about tax anticipation warrants anytime soon," Mahaffy said.

School District 3 Board Vice President Gerry Blohm said its important for the district to keep its fund balances healthy.

"We haven't had tax anticipation warrants in five or six years and that was just throwing away thousands and thousands of dollars," Blohm said.

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