With virtually no substantive discussion, the Finance Committee of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board Monday approved a budget for the current fiscal year that is slightly less than last year’s, and it recommended that the full board put it on public display before final adoption next month.

The budget incorporates many of the suggestions made last year by an ad hoc citizen’s budget committee as well as a number of budget-balancing strategies recommended by the administration.

Essentially, the $102 million budget preserves the current district operations, programs, services, and class sizes while providing additional funds for fine arts instruction at schools with high percentages of low-income students.

The speedy approval, however, masked a number of uncertainties that could upset the delicate balance between revenues and expenses, including results of negotiations that are continuing with the teachers union for a new four-year contract to replace the one that expires this month.

Also, changes have been proposed in the state legislature in Springfield that would shift the state’s employee pension contributions from the state to the district.

Otherwise, the share of revenues from property tax payments is budgeted to decrease by about 5 percent, from $82.2 million last year to $77.8 million this year, due primarily to a lower Consumer Price Index and decreasing bond debt.

The administration cautioned, however, that this is a “one-year dip” before they expect it to climb again in FY14.

The budget calendar calls for approval by the board on Aug. 20, a notice regarding a public hearing and display published on Aug. 23, a public hearing and final adoption by the board on Sept. 24, and filing of the budget with the county clerk and the State Board of Education on Oct. 24.

If finally approved, this would be the 11th annual balanced operating budget in a row for the district.

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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