Dist. 15's financial house not in order

Updated 10/25/2010 12:49 PM

At the Oct. 13 District 15 school board meeting, a new and improved five-year financial forecast was unveiled that left two board members and many people in the audience scratching their heads.

Compared to the March 2010 forecast, which showed the district spending its $47 million in reserves down to zero by 2014, the new forecast showed that, although our reserves would be diminished, they would not be entirely depleted.

How was this financial miracle accomplished? No one seems to know, although basing the forecast on the assumption that teaches would not receive base pay increases after their contract expires in 2012 seems to have added a rosy tint to the numbers.

In addition, an external audit of the 2009-2010 books showed that actual revenues exceeded projected revenues by $6 million, and the district's actual reserve balance is at $55 million, about $14 million in excess of the 30 percent of budget reserve level that the board voted to maintain back in March.

The new five-year financial forecast also revealed that District 15 administrative personnel received 4.33 percent pay increases last year, and are projected to receive the same going forward. Teacher's salaries increased an average of 5 percent-6 percent last year, and will increase likewise in the next two years.

Giving district employees big pay increases (compared to what the rest of us are getting) that the district clearly cannot afford only makes matters worse. Spending $250,000 on a student information tracking system that not all of the teachers are even using makes no sense.

It is time for District 15 to take a long hard look at the numbers and figure out how it is going to balance the budget. Deficit spending can only continue for so long until the well runs dry. Then the district will be forced to consider more borrowing or yet another tax increase referendum.

A five-year forecast of deficit spending is simply not acceptable, and puts our kids' education in jeopardy.

Mary E. Vanek