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updated: 5/22/2014 4:08 PM

District 155 projects surplus next school year

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After two years of deficit spending, Crystal Lake High School District 155 is projecting a nearly $100,000 surplus at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, officials said this week.

The school board recently adopted a $104 million operating budget for 2014-2015. Officials also are projecting a balanced operating budget the following year.

Officials said several cost-saving measures have helped the district get out of deficit spending, including soliciting competitive bids on contracts that don't require it, finding alternative revenue sources, decreasing supplies and personnel, and negotiating "fair" faculty and support contracts, officials said.

"The balanced budget is a result of a complete organizational effort," Superintendent Johnnie Thomas said in a news release.

The district had a roughly $1.8 million operating deficit in 2012-2013 -- the first such deficit in its history. The deficit grew to about $4.5 million this school year.

The school board gave administrators until 2016 to balance the budget, which they delivered a year ahead of the deadline.

District 155, which comprises four high schools serving nearly 7,000 students from McHenry and Lake counties, collaborated with school districts with which it shares services as part of a consortium to reduce costs for specialized personnel. A decline in student enrollment also resulted in the elimination of 12 full-time teaching positions this year through retirements and attrition, officials said.

Salaries and benefits account for 81 percent of the district's operating budget. Further staff reductions are anticipated as enrollment continues to decline.

The district lost 413 students from 2009-2010 to 2013-2014. A 2010 enrollment study projects this trend will continue for the next several years.

Meanwhile, the district has abated $6.5 million in property taxes to limit tax increases over the last three years.

"The district has taken several steps to reduce expenditures during the economic downturn and limit district residents' tax burden," T. Ferrier, assistant superintendent for business and finance said in a news release. "This budget continues to be mindful of economic conditions. For future budgets we are considering several other reduction and revenue options that are mindful of student needs while maintaining fiscal responsibility."

Officials anticipate losing $2.1 million in general state aid in the 2014-2015 fiscal year due to the state's financial woes. State aid makes up nine percent, or $8.1 million, of the district's operating revenues.

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