With more budget cuts on the horizon, a significant increase in health care premiums at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will not help the situation.
Business Manager Kathy Zalewski told the school board’s Personnel, Buildings and Grounds, and Finance Committee on Monday evening that insurers are expecting a “tsunami of cancer and cardiovascular illnesses,” which could mean a 10% annual increase for the district, or about $500,000 a year.
While Zalewski said those numbers might go down, higher costs are still likely.
And there’s another potential new expense on the horizon as well.
District 65 may have to asssume some or all of the costs for crossing guards, which, Zalewski said, “have never been paid by the district before.”
The city of Evanston has been picking up the $600,000 annual tab, but with City Hall looking to get out of the crossing guard business, Zalewski said, adding those expenses “would put huge pressure on our finances.”
There was some good economic news for the district, however, even if it is bad economic news for you.
The higher cost of living, and the increasing consumer price index, means the district will be able to capture more tax revenue.
“Inflation is bad for consumers and famlies,” Zalewski explained, “but it’s better for the district because we can collect additional taxes.”
Still, long term, District 65 faces a lot of red ink. There is a projected $12.3 million dollar deficit for 2026-27, and the board will continue reducing expenses over the upcoming years.
Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi said the deficits will all be covered.
“We will make the required reductions without impacting the quality of instruction in the classroom,” he stated.
District 65’s budget for the current school year is $151 million.
Enrollment is expected continue declining in the future, and the district is evaluating changes in school attendance boundaries and possibly closing some school buildings.
The board committee received more than 800 pages worth of documents from consultants on demographics, school maintenance needs, and excess space in school buildings.
The school facilities report said the district’s school buildings are in poor condition and need $189 million in capital improvements.
No decisions were made, but when they are, the board will have to balance financial pressures, potentially costly repairs, the political pushback over school closings, and public interest in having both a new school in the 5th Ward, plus making all schools walkable.
Administrators told the committee that school boundaries should be redrawn every 5-10 years, but District 65 has not done so since the mid 1990s.
“My kids are going to the same schools I went to,” said committee chair Joey Hailpern. “Things haven’t changed.”