The Evanston/Skokie District 65 Board of Education has passed a balanced budget for the 2023-24 school year, but it’s about as balanced as an acrobat walking on a tightrope — it’s shaky.

The board approved the $172.4 million spending plan for FY’24 on Monday night, but it comes with a smaller surplus than originally projected. And, it follows a $7.5 million deficit for academic 2022-23.

“We’re just spending too much,” Business Manager Kathy Zalewski told the board.

“It’s as simple as that.”

The projected FY ’24 surplus is only $276,000, a $487,000 drop from what had been predicted several weeks ago.

Higher expenses are primarily driven by drivers … bus drivers.

Zalewski noted that costs have been increasing for transportation, maintenance and other purchased services.

And it’s not going to get any easier.

While District 65 enrollment keeps going down, expenses keep going up.

Those expenses would be even higher for FY ’24 without the district’s elimination of 14.5 full-time-equivalent (FTE) teaching positions. No one was laid off. The cuts came through attrition.

But without either a bucket full of unexpected new revenue, or more slicing and dicing of costs, Zalewski said that District 65 faces a$4 million deficit for school year 2024-25, and stressed that efforts need to start now to head that off.

“We have a lot of work to do.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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