Yorkville School District 115 officials say they have eliminated a potential multi-million-dollar deficit without impacting students or faculty.
The School Board voted unanimously Monday, Sept. 24, to approve the district’s balanced budget.
The budget for the district’s Education Fund outlines $60,041,345 in direct revenues and $60,021,316 in expenses for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018 and ending June 30, 2019. The fund balance for the Ed Fund sits at $23,236,549, according to the district’s budget report to the Illinois State Board of Education.
The total budget, including the Operations and Maintenance Fund, Transportation Fund and Working Cash Fund, shows $75,024,477 in direct revenues and $73,341,697 in expenses, with a fund balance of $38,557,442.
Superintendent Dr. Tim Shimp credits the district’s goal of looking at budgets from a multi-year perspective as an “eye-opener.” The district was looking at a possible $5.2 million deficit the last school year, he said.
“When we were faced with the projected deficit a little over two years ago, we really started having conversations about looking at our budget from a multi-year standpoint,” he said. “We’ve always done long-term projections, we’ve always done three-to-five-year projections and updated the board, but I think from a budget development process, really we started last year looking at a budget development process from a multi-year standpoint.”
Shimp said district officials decided “we should do that all the time.”
“When you have a multi-year strategic plan, which we’re in the third year of our three-year plan, it only makes sense to look at a multi-year budget, because everything that we do should fall in line with the strategic plan,” he said.
Shimp said the budget development process was a collaborative one.
“We went out to all of our schools and our staff last year and we talked to them about, hey, we have a deficit we have to overcome as a collective district; what areas from your perspective positions, whether that’s maintenance, teaching, administrative; what suggestions do you have in areas where we can reduce?” he said. “We’ve always been transparent, but I think getting more people involved was a significant change.”
Mindy Bradford, the district’s executive director of finance and operations, said the district focused on “revenue generation and expense management.” She said the district saw increases in revenue in three areas, one of which was the annual property tax levy.
“We did see some growth in that, which we usually do, and it was higher than we anticipated,” she said.
Bradford said the district also saw a revenue boost thanks to the state’s evidence-based funding formula, approved by the legislature last year.
“Everybody didn’t know what that was going to look like,” she said. “Historically, the state hasn’t paid their bills on time, they’ve paid at a reduced amount. So once we started the year, we knew what our base fund minimum amount was, but then there was some additional tier funding that you’re eligible to potentially get. We didn’t find out until maybe June that we were going to get that additional funding.”
Bradford said the district also applied for some new grant funding, which helped bring in more revenue, including a Preschool For All grant.
She said the district looked at its annual funding from the state’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grant, and funding for the school through special education reimbursement programs.
“We made sure that we were aggressively capturing all of those dollars,” she said.
Dr. Pete Marcelo, associate superintendent of student and business services, said the district was aggressive at capturing revenue.
“We made sure that we maximized to the full extent money that potentially was eligible for us, so we did a lot of fine tuning to make sure that every dollar [that was] on the table we submitted for,” he said. “That took a lot of work, but it was worth it.”
District officials said the goal was to not impact families, students and faculty. Marcelo indirectly referenced the extracurricular fees put into place earlier this year by neighboring Oswego School District 308.
“There was some agreement that we weren’t going to raise fees for families, which some districts decide to do, but that’s not our philosophy at this point – on the annual basis, just for this year,” he said. “And I think there were no program cuts. Those were two things that were super important to us.”
Kristine Liptrot, the district’s director of communications and community engagement, said there was a “concentrated effort to keep any reductions as far away from affecting students as possible.”
Shimp said the district didn’t fill some positions, including an assistant principal at Yorkville High School who left for a job in another district.
“We had five or six staff members allocated this year for growth, and although we did see some growth, we chose not to hire those positions,” he said. “Our mindset going into it was, the faces that were here last year would come back this year. We wanted to maintain the people who wanted to be here.”
Marcelo said the district also staffed “based on actual students in their seat as opposed to projected students.”
“We’re very flexible though, so if there are more students, we have hired as a result of increased students,” he said. “We’ve built into our budget contingencies for mid-year hires. Some districts budget solely on projections, but that’s not really an efficient way to staff. The most efficient was is by actual students who actually show up.”
Shimp said the collaborative effort with the staff and faculty helped make the budget process a successful one.
“The biggest chunk of our budget is people,” he said. “I can’t stress enough that the relationship between the board, the administration, the YEA (union), and the collaborative work we did together through the negotiation process was significant to get to the place we are today.”