Palatine Township Elementary District 15 will continue to operate in the red under new fiscal projections.
The district anticipates hiring at least a dozen bilingual teachers for the 2014-2015 school year -- a conservative estimate, officials say -- to focus more resources on English language learners who face tougher state testing standards.
The new hires could add about $1 million in costs and contribute in part to small, annual deficits.
Officials are now predicting shortfalls totaling $4.7 million over the next four school years -- instead of the modest surpluses expected to start in 2015-2016. The deficit is small enough that it could be covered out of the district's reserves, which stood at $54.4 million last fall.
Several unknowns could change that picture. On the revenue side, officials previously projected raising the 2014 property tax levy the rate of inflation, pegging the estimated increase in the Consumer Price Index at 2.5 percent (the average over the last decade). State law allows the district to increase the property tax levy 5 percent, or the inflation rate, whichever is less. But the latest projections have the district bumping the levy to the actual CPI, or only 1.5 percent.
Still, the district has turned a corner after making budget cuts to close a projected $10 million gap in the budget three years ago, officials say.
"We're on firm financial ground currently," Assistant Superintendent Mike Adamczyk said.
The district also is heading to a stronger finish for this fiscal year. Spending will exceed revenue by $2.1 million, down from an estimated $3.4 million deficit thanks to declining health care costs.
Meanwhile, officials are preparing the 2014-2015 budget of $152.2 million ahead of a June 25 presentation before the school board.
The district plans to set aside more than the $3 million typically reserved for capital projects.
The district is spending nearly twice that this year and will budget about $4.5 million for 2014-2015. Among the projects are plumbing and heating and air conditioning repairs at several schools, as well as a new, smaller track at Walter Sundling Junior High in Palatine.