The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Finance Committee will receive a budget update tonight that shows the district has to either trim spending or take on more debt to keep its budget balanced over the next several years.

The district’s forecasts show it faces budget shortfalls totaling about $2.5 million over the next four years, or an average of about 0.7 percent of its total spending each year.

Another staff report the committee is to receive tonight suggests reducing the operating budget shortfalls by shifting up to $450,000 a year in expenses for computers and other technology equipment now paid out of operating funds to capital bond funding.

Chief Financial Officer Mary Brown says the district will need to issue $10 million in bonds next year to take care of life safety and other building improvement projects, but will still be far below the state-mandated caps on its debt financing, leaving room for using debt to fund the technology investments.

Based on current debt levels, she said, the district could issue $76 million in additional bonds without seeking taxpayer approval in a referendum, and about another $60 million beyond that if it won taxpayer backing.

The financial projections assume annual increases of 3 percent in salaries, 10 percent in health insurance, 5 percent in other benefits and a 2.5 percent increase in most other costs. They assume stable enrollment and staffing levels.

The projections assume that the taxable value of existing property in the district will rise about 2.5 percent per year, but that the district will get an increase in new revenue equivalent to about 3 percent of its total tax base when a tax increment financing district expires in 2009.

The school district gets about 75 percent of its revenue from the property tax, with the rest coming from a mix of federal, state and local sources.

Salaries account for 68 percent of its operating expenses, with benefits adding another 12 percent. Purchased services and supplies and materials account for most of the rest.

District 65’s financial profile score with the state board of education is the second highest of four levels the state maintains, and the projections assume it will stay in that range for the next four years.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. External Resources
    Whenever I hear about a lack of resources, my first question is this- are we doing everything we can to bring resources in to the schools and teachers?

    Chicago Public Schools have a department of Resources and Partnerships “The mission of the Department of External Resources and Partnerships is to garner resources for Chicago Public Schools in the form of money, materials, and volunteers in order to improve student achievement and strengthen and expand educational opportunities. ”

    Arne Duncan, in 2001, created the Department of External Resources and Partnerships and among other things, in it’s first year, secured 70 million in grants, 10 million more than had been secured the year before.

    While we aren’t the size of CPS, we can certainly become more proactive in aquiring and using external resources. Foundation 65 is working hard to raise money — how much of that is being used? Foundation 65 is clearly one important piece of the puzzle, but the district should have its own established fundraiser heading up this very important charge. It should be their full time job. I had the chance to hear Cynthia Greenleaf, who heads up the Department of Partnerships for CPS and she is really impressive.

    Greenleaf earned her B.A. at Smith College and went on for an Ed. M. at Harvard and a J.D. at Georgetown Law. For much of her professional life she worked as an administrator in the academic world–most recently in New York as Assistant Provost at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and as Associate Vice President for Administration at Rockefeller University.

    We need to make aquiring and utilizing outside resources a priority for this district.
    We should spend at least as much, if not more, effort on bringing resources in as we do on cutting programs out.

    Jane Berkley
    .

    1. Oakton and ETHS
      Ms. Berkley,

      I believe your idea to explore external resources is a good one. However, if I’m interpreting your commentary correctly, you may be suggesting “the district” create a new position and hire a full time fundraiser. So I wonder – – wouldn’t that person become an employee on payroll and therefore an internal resource? What is the competitive market compensation for a full time fundraiser and at what percent will their salary compound expenditures annually until retirement?

      Many years ago, d65 created such a position, the administrator earned close to 6 figures. The position has since been cut from the budget. To consider resurrecting a fundraising position in the near future, I believe, stands to increase potential shortfalls and also salaries and benefits within the budget for many years to come.

      Wouldn’t the matter potentially fuel the engine and fan the flames for those Evanstonians who insist d65’s board of education, the superintendent, and all the rest are “fiscally irresponsible, incompetent, mediocre; waste tax dollars, so forth, so on, blah, blah and blah?

      Maybe not.

      Perhaps your proposal once implemented would be viewed differently; especially if it stands to enhance the budget. Great! But what if it fails? What hail storm of community controversy and conflict will rain down to exacerbate the ledger? Who will be liable and held accountable for failure and wasteful spending? The CEO… the CFO…the Board? Who?

      Your idea is still relevant. How about considering a temporary alternative to d65 hiring a fundraiser. As long as it violates no bylaws, rules or regulations – – Is it possible for each local pta to collectively pledge 10% or more of their total treasuries that will underwrite some of the district’s programming expenses?

      If not “the district’s” budget how about the northern local pta’s and other local Evanston Parent/Teacher Associations contributing the same 10% or more to a southern Evanston school – – say for example – – Oakton or ETHS?

      Oakton and ETHS are in need of materials, resources and supplies that will expand and increase educational opportunities for students.

      I’ll start the bidding by donating $100 to the cause: OAKTON!

      What say you?

  2. District 65 Superintendent Says ‘Surprise’!
    Gee…how many weeks ago did the School Board vote to extend the Superintendent’s contract until 2012? (Here’s a reminder…it was less than 12 weeks ago.) And didn’t several School Board members state that one of the reasons for that mega-extension is the excellent financial status of the district?

    Surprise! Now that that mega-extension is in place and more than $1 million will be flowing to the Superintendent (with no opportunity for true oversight by the Board or the public due to this lengthy contract), the truth comes out…the District has a significant financial shortfall.

    Why was this important information kept quiet until after that School Board vote?

    How do the School Board members feel now about giving away the store for another four years? I have a feeling that we’ll be getting lots of surprises (and resulting excuses) from the District 65 Administration in the coming year and beyond.

  3. District 65 Budget
    When 80% of the District 65 budget is tied to teacher salaries and benefits, you have to ask why? To trim the budget, you need to start there.

    1. To trim the budget
      To trim the budget the Board should have started with a moderate extension of the Superintendent’s contract. But no, we had to “reward Dr. Murphy” (like no other district does and for what, we are not sure) We have now tied up millions of dollars in a contract for a guy who….could not balance the budget if his future depended on it. Now, that his future does not depend on it, we are going to trim the teachers’ salaries and benefits? The teachers are the only reason parents stay in D65 and put up with the incompetent Administration Dr. Murphy has assembled (see technology plan–we just bought a security package that costs us 10 times the cost of the number of computers lost or stolen in a year, see Special Ed services).

      1. Gee, you forgot the
        Gee, you forgot the benefits of “yes people” teaching our youth. By doing that and making public examples out of those that dared to point out that the Administration has no clothes (er I meant competence), our children are trained not to question authority or complain. What a boon for the alderpeople and developers in the years to come. If my children succeed, it will be as much because of the teachers that have been encouraged (or run out) of District 65 as the ones currently there.

  4. Explain the math?
    I don’t understand the math. If you hire someone for, let’s say, $100,000 and they bring 1 million into the district — that should be good, right? But if the district doesn’t hire that employee to save on salaries and ends up leaving a million dollars on the table — aren’t we out resources? How does that help our district?

    I’ve heard this argument before, but just don’t get the math.

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