This paper has rightly complained about OPRF High School’s unnecessarily high cash balance. But it has missed the fact that another local district, adjusted for its size, is even worse. River Forest District 90 had 598 days’ cash on hand as of the last reporting date to the state Board of Education, June 2017 (based on a 360-day banker’s year). That means it could run itself with no outside revenue for almost a year and eight months. OPRF had only 498 days, down from 808 in Fiscal 2013. Check the state board’s website.
For those of you who say, “I gladly spend on education,” this is not being used for teachers. It’s just sitting there, overtaxed. It can later be used for capital projects without bonding (meaning that the people who benefit later do not help to pay for their asset, and people don’t get to vote on the project), or to paper over later deficit spending. It’s a bad practice.
The state gives its highest grade for 180 days’ cash, and second highest for 90 days and above. These balances rightly exist to handle seasonal fluctuations due to spikes in property tax collections, and to adjust for what I call the Referendum Cycle (initial building up of balances, followed by depletion due to costs overtaking revenues). That happens in a labor-intensive institution where compensation exceeds the Consumer Price Index if teachers are to have standard-of-living increases. But these amounts are excessive.
Both of these districts are out of touch with fiscal reality.