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updated: 7/15/2013 10:51 PM

$4.7 million state payment boosts Dist. 204 budget

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Budget discussions at the Indian Prairie Unit District 204 board meeting Monday night centered on a pleasant surprise: an extra payment from the state.

The district received a fifth quarterly payment this year, bringing in an extra $4.7 million that can be applied toward spending in the 2014 budget.

"That's great news and that brings the state of Illinois back on track in terms of what they owe us," Jay Strang, assistant superintendent for business, said about the fifth payment.

School board members talked through a list of roughly 30 proposed items -- many of them safety- or operations-related -- that could be added to next year's spending plan and decided to move forward with budgeting for all of them.

Expenditures on the list total $5.8 million, including $1.9 million for a new chiller at Waubonsie Valley High School to replace a 1976 cooling machine that's on its last legs, $54,000 for a new visitor management system at 32 sites and $30,000 to hire a part-time safety manager.

"We've put off building improvements we should have done years ago," board member Mark Rising said about work such as a $135,000 waterproofing project at Waubonsie Valley High School and installation of a $670,000 new metal roof for Gregory Middle School. "This is catching up to where we should be."

Board members said they are comfortable with deficit-spending about $3.1 million out of the district's fund balance to allow all the proposed expenditures to be added to the budget, especially because the unanticipated additional money from the state gives them a larger cushion.

"We're at a point of reprioritization in terms of our buildings, in terms of our educational operation, in terms of how our administration works," board member Michael Raczak said. "But this is not an indication of the solvency of the state of Illinois. We have to continue to spend wisely and prudently."

Strang said the district would retain a 31.8 percent fund balance -- above its goal of 25 percent -- even with all $5.8 million of possible additional work.

"We recognize the fund balances are slow to grow and quick to sink," board member Justin Karubas said. "But I'm comfortable to deficit-spend to meet the full needs of this list."

Including the $5.8 million in budget additions, the district plans to spend roughly $300 million next year, according to a draft budget discussed Monday night.

Strang said staff members will build a tentative budget for discussion at the Aug. 19 meeting. The board is on track to approve the 2014 budget at its Sept. 23 meeting.

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