School districts in O’Fallon and Shiloh all approved deficit spending for the year when they passed the final budgets for the 2017-18 budgets in September. However, local superintendents struck a more positive tone when it came to their finances this year, following the General Assembly actually passing a budget and new funding formula.
Since the funding bills worked their way through the legislature, general state aid payments have been arriving in a timely manner, which has helped districts with their cash flow.
The state has till been slow in its categorical payments, though. Those payments include funding for things such as transportation and special education.
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O’Fallon Township High School District 203 unanimously passed its $32.1 million budget, of which $19.7 million were educational expenses including $13.8 million in employee salaries and $3 million in benefits.
“With regard to funding, all general state aid payments have been paid to the school district and are being paid in a timely manner,” Tammy Steckel, OTHS chief financial officer, said.
Steckel said, “Remember that the first two general state aid payments for August were not paid due to the delay in the approval of the new funding mechanism. Those payments were paid the first week of September, and since that time, the September and October payments have been paid in a timely manner.”
The first categorical payments, special education and transportation, for the 2017-18 school were released to the Illinois Comptroller’s Office on Sept. 26, according to Steckel.
“The timing for the receipt of these funds is unknown, as the school district is still waiting for the final categorical payments from the 2016-17 school year for special education and transportation,” Steckel said.
Those final two categorical payments from last year total is $343,179.
“The fact that, as a result of the new funding formula, two special education categorical grants (for) personnel and funding for children requiring special ed services, are now included in the general state aid payments is positive, with regards to funding as the general state aid payments have been and are scheduled to be paid every month,” Steckel said.
O’Fallon School District 90 unanimously passed its $34.8 million budget, of which $22.2 million were educational expenses, including $15.2 million in employee salaries and $3.8 million in benefits.
“The district estimated state revenues based on what was received last year, although we are confident they will be higher based on the new funding formula. Historically, when District 90 has projected its budget, we have estimated very conservatively, budgeting low on revenues and high on expenditures. Specifically, we have not counted early property taxes in our budget. Therefore, the budget shows expenditures slightly higher than revenues. But again, that is a conservative view, and we are confident the final audit will show additional fund balances, as was the case for the FY17 budget also,” Carrie Hruby, O’Fallon Distrist 90 superintendent, said.
Hruby also said the Illinois State Board of Education is currently calculating each district’s new funding based on the SB1947 legislation.
“Because we do not yet have those figures, we based our budget on the FY17 state revenues received, because we are guaranteed at least that much, in the base funding minimum calculations. Again, this is very conservative and we fully expect to receive more once those figures are calculated,” Hruby said.
O’Fallon Central School District 104 unanimously passed its $6.7 million budget, of which $4.5 million were educational expenses, including $3 million in employee salaries and $668,000 in benefits.
“We were able to make some adjustments to our budget based on the evidence funding formula being passed and the anticipated funds that we will be getting,” Dawn Elser, Central 104 superintendent said.
Elser said deficit spending is a focus of the district.
“We had project about $200,000 deficit spending but made some adjustments and now only deficit spending $104,000,” Elser said.
Elser said her district relies “heavily on local funds as opposed to state funds.”
Shiloh School District 85 unanimously passed its $6.5 million budget, of which $4.1 million were educational expenditures, including $2.9 million in employee salaries and $382,000 in benefits.
“Overall, we made very good efforts to reduce expenses in FY17 cutting costs. Those gains were somewhat eroded, primarily by special education out placement tuition and those transportation expenses,” Dale Sauer, Shiloh 85 superintendent said.
Sauer said there were “no fund transfers” needed despite the “withholding of state categorical reimbursements continues to affect our cash flow,” which are the area where minor changes occurred.
“We are looking at more in FY18 with the initiation of our cross categorical classroom. We are still deficit spending, but to what degree will be determined by state funding. Our fund balances have dwindled to low levels, so we will keep that as a priority again this year to continue to hone a focused cost containment options,” Sauer said.