Batavia board learns nuts-and-bolts of school budgeting

Updated 8/14/2013 11:38 AM

Now that the Batavia school district will have at least $2 million more coming in each year, because of the expiration of a tax-increment financing district, board member Gregg Hodge wants to make sure the school board revisits what to do with to that money.

Especially since four of the seven board members are new.

The matter came up for a discussion at a budget workshop Tuesday night.

In February, the old board decided to divide a one-time payout of money left over at the end of the TIF for the Chicago Premium Outlets Mall in Aurora: one-third to support instructional programs by increasing staff, one-third on capital projects, and one-third to bolster some fund reserves.

Going forward, the district expects to receive at least $2 million a year from that land. Hodge said the board should re-evaluate priorities, and may want to consider using it to lower taxes for other property taxpayers.

In a tax-increment financing district, the assessed value of property is frozen for the purpose of distributing tax money to local units of government. But the increase in taxes created by the increase in value of improved or redeveloped properties is funneled back into improvements, such as roads and other infrastructure. The idea is that the work spurs development. When the Aurora TIF for the mall and an industrial area next to it was approved in 1989, the base equalized assessed valuation of the land was $226,777. When it expired in 2012, the EAV was $86.03 million.

The board penciled in a discussion on the matter for early winter.

Basic budgeting

Overall, the budget workshop was "School Budgeting 101."

"Since for many of you this is your first time through the budgeting process, we wanted to have a workshop where you receive information and ask some questions," Superintendent Lisa Hichens said. Three new people were elected to the board in April, and a fourth was appointed to a vacancy in May. Two of the veterans have been on the board two years, and the last a little over a year.

They discussed funds and accounts; how the district codes accounts so one can tell with what program or building an expense is affiliated; about state and federal funding; and more.

They learned:

• That "the lag time we've been experiencing for many years seems to be shrinking," for general state aid payments, said Kris Monn, assistant superintendent for finance.

• That it is likely to see a 10 percent, or $253,000, decrease in federal aid, due to the federal budget sequestration.

• That the district will likely get more money from the state for transportation reimbursement this fiscal year, based on increased costs and on the stage legislature deciding to use a higher percentage rate this year than last for regular transportation. "Transportation is one of those whims of the state legislature," Monn said. Within the last year, the legislature had considered lowering the reimbursement rate.

• That the district will examine expanding the school breakfast program by the end of the school year to all its schools. It started it in the middle of the last year at Hoover-Wood Elementary School. The National School Lunch Program doesn't require it, as the district does not have enough students at poverty level, but school officials believe offering the breakfast is beneficial, and it is a break-even program.

• That the district will receive $106,000 more in general state aid as the number of students at poverty level has increased.

Only three members of the public attended the workshop.

The board will vote on the 2013-14 budget Sept. 24. It calls for about $81 million in revenue and $80.5 million in expenses, including what it must pay toward its debt.

The total budget, including what the district must pay toward its debt, is about $81 million in revenue, and $80.5 million in expenses. Salaries and benefits account for $51 million of the spending.

The fiscal year began July 1. The board has until Sept. 30 to adopt a budget.

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