Education

Superintendent: Oswego School District on path to financial recovery

Fund balance tracking to exceed minimal recommended amount in five years

Oswego School District 308 Superintendent John Sparlin told the Board of Education Monday evening, Dec. 6 that the district is on the path to financial recovery after years of budget cuts, layoffs and restructuring.

Sparlin told the board that five years from now, if current financial projections hold true, for the first time this century the district will exceed the 20% minimal recommended fund balance for a district the size of 308.

Projections were presented to the Board at its Nov. 15 meeting, during a discussion of the district’s proposed annual property tax levy. Chief Financial Officer John Petzke presented the board with data showing the levy’s impact on district finances under different scenarios involving changes to the level in state funding the district receives coupled with changes in the levy.

In each projection scenario, the district had a positive year-end balance of at least $40 million.

“When I became superintendent in 2016 the district was looking at a future of unbalanced budgets and a declining fund balance. We presented a five year projection that was going in the wrong direction,” Sparlin told the board.

“We showed a do nothing scenario, which meant if we didn’t change our spending habits, that we would not only not have a fund balance at the end of 2021, we’d have a 15 million deficit, and we were facing the possibility of the state coming and taking control and making our financial decisions.

“We obviously were not going to let that happen. We began conversations at the board level to change that financial picture,” Sparlin continued.

In the following four years, Sparlin said the board took steps to “change that financial picture” including what he described as “extremely tough decisions, not only to balance the budget, but how we would eventually get our school district on the right financial path.”

“Along the way, as we increase our fund balance, the Board of Education will have more opportunities to make decisions that will enable us to be the progressive school district that we all want to be,” he said, adding, “We aren’t there yet, but we are on a positive financial path that will not only change the discussion at this table, it will provide more opportunities to ensure that we are meeting our district mission statement of educating all students to meet their highest potential.”

Sparlin recalled telling the board five years ago that getting out of its financial deficit “would not be easy, that it would take time, but when we do, the narrative would change.”

He said, “We are already starting to see that change in our academic programming, our athletics programs, the opportunities that we are going to be able to provide our students over the next five years.”