The Oswego School District 308 Board of Education voted unanimously to approve an unbalanced budget, with a deficit, during its most recent meeting.
The district's Chief Financial Officer Christy Tyler, had previously presented the board with a tentative budget at its Aug. 10 meeting, but announced several changes during the board's meeting Sept. 28.
"This budget, more than any other budget, is built on a mountain of unknowns," Tyler said. "We won't know what if any additional savings or expenses any model of instruction will bring until we are in the midst of it."
As a result, an amended budget may need to be filed later in the year. As the district is submitting a deficit budget, it must also submit a deficit reduction plan.
Tyler informed the board that the deficit has now changed to $5.9 million, a change from the $5.5 million deficit presented to the board with the tentative budget, and different from the $8.2 million deficit previously presented to the board's Finance and and Facilities Committee.
Previous presentations, she continued, had included additional staff for the in-person education plan presented at that time.
The "primary" cause of the deficit, Tyler explained, is "directly related to COVID."
As previously reported in the Ledger, the district is expecting to receive less money in state funds due to the effects of the pandemic, creating a deficit. The district will receive flat funding from the state's Evidence Based Funding (EBF) formula. This year, the district had originally projected to receive $4.3 million in additional state funding - about a 2.5% increase - but flat funding means that the district will receive no increase.
Evidence Based Funding was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner in Aug. 2017. The purpose of EBF is to equally fund school districts by placing them in a "tier" system to determine how much funding they receive from the state.
The exact amount of state funds received by a district is determined in several steps including calculating a district's "adequacy target," or the cost of educating all students. The adequacy target for OSD 308 as determined by the state is $219,459,910. Currently, the district is at $136,636,262, or 62%.
By state law, districts must be funded by the state at 90% of EBF by 2027. Tyler predicted that flat funding the district would drop down from its current 62% standing.
Additional costs to the district have come from the need to hire additional staff and secure PPE to meet required standards for safety.
Further changes to the budget include an elimination of a curriculum allocation, meant to serve as a placeholder for Chromebooks, but the lease payment and additional costs will be completely covered by grants received by the district, Tyler said.
The district reduced the line item in the budget for PPE following a lower-cost, board-approved bid for PPE. The number of staff needed to be employed by the district has also changed, due to the plan for returning to in-person education presented to the board Sept. 28.
Following a question from Board Secretary Ruth Kroner, Tyler confirmed that the budget assumes that the district will operate under a hybrid learning style through the remainder of the school year.
Later during the meeting, board member Brent Lightfoot made a brief statement prior to the vote, explaining that he would be voting in favor of approving the unbalanced budget, something he admitted that he doesn't do for unbalanced budgets.
"We all understand the situation we're in here, being asked to approve a budget with a huge deficit," Lightfoot said. "I normally will make a comment about how I don't vote for unbalanced budgets. I will tonight.
"By the time we got the budget and knew what was going on, there was no time to make changes. We will develop a plan, and it's not going to be fun, but let's go ahead and adopt a budget."
The Oswego School District 308 Board of Education will next meet at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 13, at Oswego East High School.