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updated: 10/14/2013 4:38 PM

District 214 will form committee to discuss surplus funds

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Long criticized for keeping too much of its taxpayer dollars in reserve, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is now creating a committee to discuss how to spend some of its extra money.

The school board last year approved a position paper that states if the district's reserves are more than 55 percent of the district's operating budget, or falls below 50 percent of it, a committee will be established to consider capital project expenditures, said Superintendent David Schuler. The intent is to keep the district's reserves between 50 and 55 percent of the annual budget, which would allow for six to seven months of operation if necessary.

At the end of June 2013, the district's reserve balance was $181,158,056, said district spokeswoman Venetia Miles. That's more than 75 percent of the $230 million operating budget, triggering the committee's creation.

Because the group is in such a formative stage, board President Bill Dussling said it's too soon to comment on what kind of projects will be discussed or if a rebate to taxpayers is an option. The unknown price tags on pensions and health care also need to be considered before taking on any major projects, he said.

According to the policy, the committee will include the superintendent, associate superintendent for finance and operations, director of business services, director of facilities and operations, a principal, and a representative from the board.

They will develop a plan to maintain the target reserve balance of 50 percent to 55 percent of the budget while considering capital project expenditures as part of the long-term facility improvement planning and life safety requirements of the district, the policy states.

Schuler said the names of the committee members will be announced at a future board meeting as well as a timeline and procedures for the group. There will be opportunities for internal and external input throughout the process, he said.

One project that several parents and community members have been outspoken about is the addition of more swimming pools to the district. Currently, only three of the district's six high schools have pools.

One recent proposal from a community member calls for the construction of a district aquatic center that could serve the needs of several high school swimming, diving and water polo teams, as well as host large swim meets.

In the past residents have spoken out at meetings and in letters to the editor about what they said seemed like an excess amount of reserves in District 214.

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