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Local News

Plano School Board approves $26 million budget

Plano School Board members last week approved their budget for the 2018-19 school year on the recommendation of Superintendent Tony Baker.

Plano School District 88 began the year with a balance from the previous year of $26,562,791 for all operating funds. And it budgeted $35,175,468 for the coming year.

Expenditures are expected to total $26,168,991 for the year, Baker said.

“We will set aside $1.3 million of district revenue to abate the debt issue and help our community in terms of not passing along additional taxes,” he said. “This has been done each year since the board adopted the FY14 budget. This has equated to $8.3 million over the past eight years.”

Baker said they will maintain the current services and programs in all schools and will closely monitor the fund balances in order to ensure that the district has contingency funds for emergencies and unexpected changes in revenue.

“And we will continue to update and improve our facilities,” he added.

Baker said the board agreed to maintain the current services and programs, which includes the pre-kindergarten program.

Jay Cunneen, district financial consultant, said the board used “guiding principles set by the finance committee.”

“We deal with issues, and are challenged as administrators. When programs come up, this district asks about the two effects – how they will improve students and what the cost and what improvements will it cause,” Cunneen said.

Cunneen said one problem the Plano district has is that it does not blow its own horn loud enough.

“Things happen here that don’t happen in other districts. I’ve been at many ribbon-cuttings and openings. And this one was unique because it wasn’t funded by a bond issue,” he said, referring to the unveiling of improvements to the high school parking lot that was held earlier in the evening. “This project was funded through the district’s reserves to save money. The school finance is like home finance – sometimes you put away money for a project, and this district does that with the capital projects portion of the budget.”

The district was able to complete this project, costing more than $2 million, without issuing any bonds, something few districts can do, Cunneen said.

Cunneen commended the school district for the tax abatement program it has, adding that no district he knows of returns money to the taxpayers like Plano does.

The taxpayers save 10 percent each year through abatements, and the money is sent back to residents, he said.

“Other financial experts tell us not to do this,” he said. “They claim no one appreciates it, but they should appreciate it. It’s over $1,000 saved for the average taxpayer.”

“Plano even gave teachers significant raises this year,” he said, adding that these things do not happen by accident.

Regarding revenue, the board has agreed to not have any increases in costs to taxpayers, and to be as conservative as possible with state funds.

Baker also noted that they expect conservative changes in the state’s funding.

Board President Tim Campbell said Cunneen is a part of their team and is appreciated by the board. “You have been spot-on with your advice to us so that we can continue to make good decisions, and we thank you for that,” he said.

Baker said the district’s targets for the coming year are to maintain a balanced budget, continue to maintain the Illinois State Board of Education’s highest financial rating, avoid school fee increases other than lunch menu costs, which are state regulated, and to keep cost-saving efforts away from the classroom.

“In fact, we’ve expanded some of those programs, such as the STEM programs. We want to make sure those opportunities are available to our kids to see that they benefit from that,” he said.

Baker said because of changes in the state aid, this year they expect to receive state aid totaling 42 percent of the revenue needed, compared to 34 percent last year.

And this means they can reduce the amount of local money needed from 62 percent to 54 percent.

The federal aid allotment is expected to remain unchanged at 4 percent, he said.  

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