Briscoe: Here’s Budget 101 for District 428

During this time of year school districts across Illinois are in the process of approving their tax levy for the 2012-13 school term.

Basically, school districts are trying to estimate the revenue they will receive from the Equalized Assessed Valuation, called the EAV, of all residential, commercial and industrial property within their school district's boundaries.

For DeKalb School District 428, the EAV from the 2010 tax levy was $797,928,731 which translated into $41,530,196 of actual property taxes that District 428 will receive for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Other local dollars District 428 will receive include Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax, school fees, lunch and TIF surplus, which adds up to $3,997,664. District 428 will receive an additional $4,783,129 from the federal government and $15,791,598 from the State of Illinois.

The total revenue that District 428 will receive for operational costs for 2011-12 is projected at $66,102,587. It is important to note that the operational costs do not include the district's fund balances or payments on bond and interest for construction projects.

In DeKalb County, the local property owner carries a heavy burden of paying for local schools. Many communities similar to DeKalb have a minimal industrial tax base, resulting in an even heavier tax burden for the residential sector of the community. Now that the housing market and economy are in such turmoil it has made the process for estimating the EAV difficult.

What makes projecting a school district's budget even more complicated is the instability of our state government. For example, during the spring of 2011, District 428 diligently planned the 2011-12 budget. The Board of Education again made the necessary budget reductions and lowered our projected deficit from $1.4 million to approximate $500,000.

However, right before school started in the fall of 2011, the governor announced that the state would not pay the last General State Aid payment for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Further reductions made by the governor in transportation funding resulted in a loss of approximately $700,000 in state revenue.

In the fall of 2010, two weeks into the school term and after the Board of Education made significant budget reductions to balance the budget, the governor reduced our school district's transportation reimbursement by $600,000. These types of last-minute decisions by our elected officials are having a damaging impact on school districts across the state.

On the expenditure side of the budget, a majority of school districts in Illinois pay approximately 80 percent of their total budget for people, which make sense since schools are a service organization. The total cost for the 2011-12 fiscal year for District 428 for the employee groups is as follows: 

• $24,492,494 to teachers;

• $2,021,240 to custodial/maintenance/cooks;

• $3,251,887 to office and teacher assistants;

• $2,873,234 to administration;

• $1,097,370 to administrative assistants/ coordinators/managers;

• $992,838 to office professionals.

The remaining 20 percent of the budget covers costs such as copier machines, equipment, maintenance on buildings, textbooks, technology, utilities, etc.

The Board of Education and administration in District 428 are committed to balancing the operational budget. During the past three years the board has approved more than $5 million in budget reductions. District 428 is projecting a deficit in excess of $3 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Because of the significant reductions that have been made during the past three years, it will be difficult to identify further reductions without affecting programs or the delivery of education.

Each time our governor or elected officials decide to arbitrarily eliminate dollars already promised to Illinois schools, it has a negative impact on school district budgets and ultimately on student learning.

The District 428 board has formed a Finance Facility Advisory Committee made up of residents throughout our community. The charge given to the FFAC was to make recommendations to the board on our future budget and facilities. We need all the creative minds we can find to make suggestions on how to balance our budget. The next FFAC meeting will be at the Education Center at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14.

• Dr. James Briscoe is the superintendent for DeKalb School District 428. He can be reached at