District 128 officials: Reserves could be gone in 6 years

  • Board President Pat Groody on Monday expressed concern about District 128's financial future, saying something needs to be done to reduce spending and increase revenue.

    Board President Pat Groody on Monday expressed concern about District 128's financial future, saying something needs to be done to reduce spending and increase revenue.

 
 
Updated 7/25/2016 9:21 PM

Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 officials are concerned continued deficit spending will eat up the district's $81 million in reserves in six or seven years.

And a hiring freeze and increased class sizes were among the options floated Monday to solve the problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The revelation on deficit spending came during a finance committee discussion of the proposed $98.3 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which began July 1.

As has been the case for years, the budget calls for more spending than revenue -- a difference of about $16.6 million this time around. Savings would be used to close that gap if the board approves the budget in August.

Board President Pat Groody called the deficit spending a "systematic problem."

"This is scary," Groody said. "This is not going to go away."

Board member Alex Delli Paoli Jr. then led the board through a financial forecast that predicted the district's savings could be gone by the 2021-22 school year if deficit spending continues, with a growing annual debt to follow if spending patterns continue.

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"We're going to have to come up with something," Groody said.

Option floated Monday included freezing hiring, increasing class sizes and boosting student fees for athletics, driver education and other programs.

Officials also discussed postponing the planned construction of a new swimming pool at Libertyville High and a second gym at Vernon Hills High. Money for both projects is included in the proposed budget, which the board tentatively approved at a subsequent meeting Monday night.

Board members were divided about whether the construction projects should move forward.

Delli Paoli suggested closing Libertyville High's pool and doing away with the school's swim programs as ways to save money. He clarified his remark after the meeting, saying he was trying to stimulate the conversation and show no program is sacrosanct.

Superintendent Prentiss Lea said the only way to significantly cut spending is to reduce programs and staff.

"We have to cut bodies," Lea said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Salaries represent about two-thirds of the district's annual budget, officials said.

Groody said the board should "be prepared to make some big decisions next year" when it comes to spending and revenue.

Lea predicted a discussion about spending and program cuts will trigger angst in the community. He told the board members they should expect to hear from "interest groups" trying to save programs and suggested holding discussions with residents about the district's finances.

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