Wauconda District 118 budget going up because of COVID-19 crisis, officials say

  • A new playground was built at Wauconda Grade School this summer. About $554,000 was included in the 2021 fiscal year's budget for the project, officials said.

    A new playground was built at Wauconda Grade School this summer. About $554,000 was included in the 2021 fiscal year's budget for the project, officials said. Courtesy of Wauconda Unit School District 118

  • The Wauconda Unit School District 118 budget is set to increase for the 2021 fiscal year in part because of the COVID-19 crisis.

    The Wauconda Unit School District 118 budget is set to increase for the 2021 fiscal year in part because of the COVID-19 crisis. Daily Herald File Photo, 2018

 
 
Updated 8/10/2020 2:04 PM

Wauconda Unit School District 118's annual budget is set to increase from the 2020 school year's spending plan in part because of the COVID-19 crisis, officials said.

The district purchased about 1,200 Chromebook laptop computers for third- through fifth-graders at its three elementary schools so they can learn from home while the buildings are closed because of the pandemic. Those computers cost about $540,000, said Cameron Willis, the district's assistant superintendent of business services.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Previously, only students enrolled at Wauconda High School or the district's two middle schools had been using district-owned Chromebooks, Willis said.

Younger students will be given Chromebooks that already had been in use in the district, Willis said.

Additionally, several summertime construction projects beefed up the spending plan, Willis said.

The result is a $79.6 million tentative budget for the new fiscal year, which began July 1.

That's about 4.3% greater than the $76.5 million spending plan for the 2020 fiscal year.

The District 118 board approved the tentative budget last week. A final vote is expected Sept. 17.

The district serves about 4,600 preschoolers through high schoolers. All students will begin remote learning sessions Aug. 24.

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Families had been told they could choose whether students would attend in-person school this fall or be taught entirely remotely, but that changed late last month as COVID-19 numbers worsened in the region.

District officials anticipate collecting nearly $75.1 in property taxes, fees and other revenue during the new fiscal year. That's down slightly from nearly $75.2 million last year, Willis said.

Revenue is expected to drop because state funding likely will decrease this year, Willis said. Additionally, "dramatically" decreasing interest rates will mean less revenue for the district, he said.

Both financial conditions resulted from the COVID-19 crisis, Willis said.

Aside from the Chromebook purchases, the board is earmarking more than $2 million for construction and infrastructure projects completed this summer. They include:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• A new playground at Wauconda Grade School, which cost $554,000.

• The refurbishment of the Wauconda High tennis courts, which cost $93,000.

• The replacement of the intercom systems at Wauconda Grade School and Wauconda Middle School, which cost $582,000.

Cash for those projects is coming from district savings, Willis said.

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