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posted: 6/28/2013 5:30 AM

St. Charles school district plans deficit

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St. Charles Unit District 303 school board members are poised to approve a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year that spends more money than the district will take in. Perhaps with that in mind, district officials are already trumpeting what should be a big tax break for district residents coming in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The budget calls for about $206.2 million in expenses. Roughly $125 million of that total is for salaries and employee benefits, making them the major drivers of the district's budget. A contract with the teachers union is already in place for the 2013-14 budget year. However, salaries are yet to negotiated for the district's administrative staff.

The district's projected expenses compare to anticipated income of about $205.7 million. The specific projected budget deficit is $495,350. Part of the deficit stems from the tax abatement the district committed to. The district will dip into its savings to cover the shortfall as planned.

In a piece of unexpected good fortune, changes in the amount of state funding the district was anticipating will result in a loss of about $330,000 instead of the nearly $1 million of losses district officials first wrote into the budget. The smaller loss will allow the district to proceed with its plan of replacing some of the school bus fleet per its normal schedule.

Conscious of being the largest portion of the property tax bill in the district, school board members have already asked the administrative staff to project the tax savings expected in the 2018-19 fiscal year. With the retirement of some bond debt, the portion of the property tax bill that funds the repayment of such debt will drop by $16.2 million. The district estimates that will translate into a $630 reduction in the property tax bill for the owner of a $300,000 home at that time. But there are five fiscal years between now and then.

The proposed budget will now go out for public review for 30 days. The school board will then host a public hearing to take any comments Aug. 12. Following the hearing, the school board is slated to vote on the budget.

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