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updated: 4/29/2010 10:19 AM

Budget concerns ahead for District 76?

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Budget cuts are never easy but the reductions for the upcoming school year made by Diamond Lake Elementary District 76 won't be nearly as disruptive as in some other schools.

The nearly $400,000 recently trimmed in the Mundelein-based district for next year did not involve eliminating any current teaching positions. Two retiring teachers won't be replaced and a few nonteaching positions will be eliminated.

But a decline in revenue from property taxes and uncertainty about state funding already is creating some concern down the line.

"Our deficit can quickly grow unless the district makes some changes," business manager Colette Ford told a gathering of about two dozen parents and others Tuesday during an informal overview of the district's financial condition.

Establishing an education foundation, for example, is one option being explored. Ford said the district next year will have to begin dealing with a projected deficit of $686,000 for 2011-12.

The overall budget at the three-school district is about $15 million.

"We don't know what those cuts are, but more than likely they will be significant," Superintendent Roger Prosise said.

Because state funding is behind schedule, the school board has authorized Prosise to proceed with tax anticipation warrants, a form of borrowing, if need be to finish out the school year.

How state funding will play out in the future is unknown, and property tax revenue also is in question.

District 76 voters in 2008 approved a tax hike for operating funds with the stipulation the education fund tax rate remain steady for four years. But when property values drop, a steady rate means less income.

Expenses have risen because of an increase in salaries, Ford said. Salaries and benefits account for nearly three quarters of the district spending.

Teachers received a 7 percent pay increase, per a contract negotiated three years ago. The contract ends June 30 and the outcome will also impact future budgets.

Prosise said parents at the time the last contract was negotiated told the district that it needed to offer competitive salaries.

"It's very unlikely the raises will be 7 percent," Prosise said. "We're in the beginning stages of collective bargaining so we don't know."

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