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updated: 5/6/2014 4:37 PM

Finances take stage at next Engage200 session

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Finances will be the topic of Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200's next community engagement meeting and officials are urging all district taxpayers to attend.

"This impacts every community member, regardless of whether they have a direct relation with the school community or not," Superintendent Brian Harris said.

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The district's fifth Engage200 session -- titled "Finance 101: District 200's Capacity and Resources" -- will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Monroe Middle School, 1855 Manchester Road in Wheaton.

Engage200 is the district's citizen-led effort to gain input from the community to help shape its future. The process has been ongoing since January and will conclude this summer when a report of the findings is presented to the school board.

Harris said Wednesday's topic is "critically important" because, on average, 80 percent of property tax bills go to school districts.

"I think it's important for people to understand what that money is being spent on," Harris said.

Bill Farley, the district's assistant superintendent for business operations, and Michael Frances of PMA Securities, one of the district's financial advisers, will start the session with a presentation.

"They're kind of going to go back and forth," Harris said. "It's a little different from what we've done in the past."

Harris said Frances will give an overview of financial scenarios at the state and federal level that are relevant to school funding and Farley will explain how those scenarios affect District 200.

Four main topics will be covered during the presentation: the district's expenditures; revenues; financial projections and planning; and outstanding and long-term debt.

"We're currently in a very stable fiscal situation," Harris said, adding that the district's budget has been balanced for four consecutive years. "However, we're very vulnerable. If there's any significant changes in revenue or if we have some expenditures come our way, we're going to be in trouble."

Following the presentation, attendees will complete a small-group activity that asks them to recommend where the district should cut expenditures if forced to do so. They also will be required to provide input for ways to increase revenue, should the district need to do so.

More than 500 people came to the first Engage200 session in January, which gave an overview of the state of the district, Harris said. Between 300 and 350 people attended the second and third sessions, which addressed student achievement and programs and services, respectively.

April's session was focused on facilities, but only about 225 people were present, Harris said.

"(The attendance) did drop and we had some pretty difficult conflicts that night with some school activities," he said. "We hope to get over the 300 mark (on Wednesday)."

Harris stressed that Engage200 isn't limited to teachers and parents. The entire community is invited to attend, he said, and anyone who hasn't been to a session yet is especially encouraged to come Wednesday night.

"We really have appreciated the community's engagement with us and we hope it continues," he said.

Parking for Engage200 will be available at the DuPage County Fairgrounds and refreshments will be served at the session. Child care and translation services will be offered.

For information on Engage200 or to review videos and verbatim summaries of the group activities at previous meetings, visit www.cusd200.org.

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