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posted: 8/13/2013 5:30 AM

District 300 getting unexpected $4.4 million from the state?

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  • Community Unit District 300 expected to have a deficit in its next budget, but now a new state funding formula could give the district an extra $4.4 million.

       Community Unit District 300 expected to have a deficit in its next budget, but now a new state funding formula could give the district an extra $4.4 million.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer, 2004

 

Community Unit District 300 school board members got some good news Monday night before approving a tentative 2013-14 budget.

The Carpentersville-based district will get $4.4 million more than expected in state funding, a surprise that could balance a budget that just two weeks ago included a $2 million deficit.

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Chief Financial Officer Susan Harkin said her office got word last Monday the general state aid allotment would be based on a formula that offers more money.

The state has three different aid formulas that give districts with less local money more per student. District 300 will be in the highest need bracket for the coming school year -- largely because of shrinking property values but growing enrollment.

That will mean about $200 more per student this school year than the district got last year.

Board members Dave Alessio and Chris Stanton were skeptical about the promise of extra state money, but while Harkin said it was true the check hadn't arrived yet, she said legislators seem to have made a commitment to paying schools what they promise in recent years -- even if that's less than schools want.

District officials hesitate to rely on the extra money because it historically has been an unsteady revenue source. Already the state is giving only 89 percent of what its formulas dictate schools should get for the 2013-14 school year.

"I feel pretty confident," Harkin said about actually seeing the check. "But again it's the long-term piece -- will it continue to be there year after year?" Harkin said.

The finance department prepared the tentative budget just more than a week ago and included a deficit with the understanding the district could catch up next year. That's when the district will begin to receive double what it has from the Hoffman Estates Sears campus thanks to higher taxes based on a renegotiated economic development deal.

For the fiscal year 2014 budget -- tentatively approved Monday -- the district will see $700,000 less in transportation funding mostly because the department has reduced costs.

Its salary expenses will rise because it added 57 certified teachers to shrink class sizes, a change for which teachers advocated during contract negotiations last year. The additional staff members will cost $4.6 million between salary and benefits costs, based on the tentative budget. But Harkin said teacher hires may continue through the fall as class rosters are finalized.

The school board will hold a public hearing about its 2013-14 budget at the Sept. 23 meeting. The same night board members will get an update on changes based on clearer grant figures, salary amounts and state aid revenue, which was not included in the tentative budget passed unanimously on Monday.

Board members are expected to approve the final budget after the September hearing.

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