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District Reserves Dip Due to Pandemic Expenses

Family savings accounts are sometimes referred to as ‘rainy day’ funds. They are insurance against unexpected expenses, used for a big purchase or home improvements.
 
This year, the District 28’s savings account – its fund balance – is being tapped for a deluge of expenses related to opening school in a pandemic.
 
The district has spent more than $1 million to reopen, including PPE and cleaning supplies, outdoor wifi enhancement and tents, health certification software, offsite storage, additional teachers, health aides, custodians and teacher stipends for extra duties. Capital projects of $400,000 were also completed this summer, including a new STEM lab at the junior high and updated HVAC system controls at Meadowbrook. The pandemic expenses, capital projects and contingency funds result in a $2 million deficit in the $45 million spending budget. If contingency funds are not used, then the projected deficit stands at $1.2 million.
 
In presenting the 2020-21 budget report, Chief School Business Official Jessica Donato, said while the fund balances declined, the district’s finances remain sufficient to support the necessary, temporary deficit spending.
 
Board policy requires the district to maintain fund balances of 50% to 75% of the annual budget. This year’s spending will draw the balance below the 50% threshold. The board approved the 2020-21 budget and agreed to have the board finance committee provide projections on how to rebuild the fund balance.
 
Other economic factors that may impact future budgets include changes to the state funding formula, a possible shift of teacher pension liabilities from the state to the district, low-interest earnings on investments, uncertain federal funding and potential development of the former Green Acres golf course.