During a regular meeting on Sept. 27, the District 200 school board unanimously adopted a budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that included a roughly $2 million deficit. This budget is the first without longtime chief business official Tod Altenburg. 

Revenues for the new Oak Park and River Forest High School budget totaled $82 million while expenditures totaled $84.2 million. As a result of the deficit, the district’s fund balance reserves are projected to decrease from $107.6 million to $105.2 million. 

This most recent budget cycle is the first since Altenburg left for a job in Lombard this summer. 

Cyndi Sidor, the interim chief school business official, and Robert Grossi of Crystal Financials, drafted this year’s budget. 

Grossi said that he and Sidor faced some “unique challenges” while putting together this current budget — namely the lack of institutional knowledge about the district’s operations and the fact that the district practices a modified accrual basis of accounting. 

“Under modified accrual basis of accounting, there tends to be several million dollars of adjustments in the ending financial information after the budget is prepared,” Grossi said. 

He said that he and Sidor had “more confidence” with projecting revenues than with expenditures. Around 90 percent of the district’s revenues come from property taxes and other local sources, such as Tax Increment Financing rebates. 

Another, albeit smaller, challenge with drafting this year’s budget was the fact that there is still no teacher contract. Grossi and Sidor put the increase in base salaries at 2.2 percent, what the former called “a standard number” that they used absent more concrete contractual data. 

Sidor and Grossi said that two major increases in revenue took place in the areas of purchased services and supplies and materials. 

The district projected to spend nearly $300,000 more in fiscal year 2018-19 than in the previous fiscal year on expenditures such as advertising, social media archiving, contractual payroll and printing student ID tags. 

The district is projected to spend an additional $250,000 this fiscal year over the previous one on various supplies and materials, including expenditures related to career technology, Trapeze, the student newspaper, and AP classes. 

This most recent budget was also notable for the fact that the district allocated zero dollars for debt service payments. 

In 2016, the school board authorized a $1.02 million payment on bonds issued in 2005, putting it on track to be debt free.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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