New formula means more revenue for DeKalb School District 428

Thanks to a new, statewide funding formula, DeKalb School District 428 schools should see more revenue for the upcoming year.

At Tuesday’s district board meeting, Cynthia Carpenter, director of business and finance, presented a 2018-19 operating budget update. The district anticipates about $2.8 million more in revenue because of “evidence-based funding.”

Evidence-based funding is a result of “The Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act,” signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August.

Under the new formula, no Illinois school district receives less money than last year, but many could receive more based on practices that research shows enhance student classroom achievement.

The new formula treats each school district individually with an “adequacy target,” meaning the greater the student need, the higher the adequacy target. New funding goes to neediest districts – those furthest from their adequacy target – first. Distribution of funds is split into four “tiers.” DeKalb is a Tier 1 district. Carpenter said District 428 is at 58 percent adequacy.

“That’s 800-plus districts, so it did take the state some time to [make those calculations],” Carpenter said.

“The whole concept of the state is to give more money to people who have more need,” board member Jeff Hallgren said. “We have a population of students who need additional assistance,” Carpenter said. “ZIP codes shouldn’t decide who gets assistance.”

Board member Rick Smith asked whether a projection of a budget surplus later sends a signal of decreased need. Carpenter said no.

Superintendent Jamie Craven said that “Part of the formula for determining what tier you go in, the state created a model school. I believe at some point our General Assembly will start asking how school districts used that [additional] money. I think that’s coming.”

He said that the model is good, developed by educators. “Even if next year only $100 million is put in, it’s still distributed fairly.”

According to an October 2017 report by the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, calculating a district’s adequacy target is based on an analysis of the cost of funding about two dozen educational factors such as enrollment, class size, staff professional development, student population demography and maintenance costs.

All told, District 428 should receive $25.7 million in state funding in FY19.

Earlier Tuesday, Craven said that “What we believe is that if everything is funded as it was this year, that $2.8 million will be our new baseline for next year. From our understanding, this wasn’t just looking at [fiscal 2019].”

The District 428 budget is open to public inspection from Aug. 17 to Sept. 18. The board is expected to adopt the fiscal 2019 budget on Sept. 18. The final budget will be posted on the district’s website after adoption.

The district’s projected 2018-19 budget includes revenues of $88.2 million and expenditures of $86.6 million, resulting in a $1.7 million surplus.

Carpenter cautioned that potential property tax freezes, cost shifting of pension payments, and the amount and time lag of delayed payments from the state could affect the final budget.