Statement from the District 65 Superintendent Dr. Jean Sophie
There is a great deal of information circulating in the community regarding the Lake Bluff 65 2012-2013 budget that will be voted on at next week’s September 25 Board of Education meeting, some of which is incorrect.
Please note the following:
- The members of the District 65 Board of Education have heard the concerns of their neighbors and will look at some form of tax relief and reduction of surplus as they review and vote on the tax levy at their October and November meetings. The entire levy discussion will be discussed at the Committee of the Whole meetings on October 9 and November 6.
- It is absolutely incorrect that the budget revenue figure from the 2012-2013 budget that will be voted on September 25 will become the basis for next year’s tax levy as stated in various emails.
- The budget that will be voted on September 25 is based on the levy that was passed in December 2011.
- If the Board passes the 2012-2013 budget next week, the district will have surplus fund balances to cover district expenses for one year.
Comment: The District has 12 million in reserves
In 2003, Lake Bluff 65 was considered on “financial watch” and in 2004 was on “early warning” according to the State of Illinois. Voters generously approved an operating rate increase via the 2003 referendum. The School Board at that time and Boards since have made the conscious decision to gradually increase District fund balances. Prior to the 2003 referendum, the District had negative fund balances in the Education and Operation & Maintenance funds for at least 2 preceding fiscal years. Bar graphs illustrating our historical and projected fund reserves are available on our website at http://www.lb65.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=10433&linkid=nav-menu-original-4-1204
Comment: Community members request that the surplus be removed from the budget to be approved on September 25
The Board will be voting on a budget in September to use funds levied in December of 2011. These are funds already on hand. The mathematical difference between revenues and expenditures results in a surplus. Since revenues are already established for this budget year, the way to reduce the surplus at this point is to spend more this fiscal year, something neither the board nor administration intend to do. The Board of Education is considering all options when it looks at the levy issue this fall (for the December 2012 levy) as it reviews the fund balance, budget, expenses, and enrollment. The December 2012 levy will impact the tax bills receives in May 2013 and will generate the revenues for the 2013-2014 school budget. The Board has heard the concerns of some of the community, and as representatives of the community, will address these concerns in October and November as it discusses the levy. The way to provide tax relief is through the levy process. The Board will be looking at various options that may provide tax relief to taxpayers and potentially decrease the surplus.
Comment: State of Illinois guidelines for all districts is to have a surplus of 25%
The State indicates a “minimum” fund balance of 25% of annual revenues to “score a 4” in terms of district fiscal health. This is not considered a “standard”—this is a minimum. There is no express statutory maximum fund balance. The School Board has the authority and fiduciary responsibility to maintain a sufficient balance to be able to continue operations despite funding disruptions and unusual expenditures. The current Board of Education has expressed the desire to develop a policy on maximum fund balance. This policy discussion will begin as part of the levy discussion this fall and will continue as part of the district strategic planning process this fall and winter.
Do we need to address pension obligations?
If the State were to pass legislation that all pension obligations are to be passed on to local school districts, Lake Bluff ESD 65’s cost would mean an additional $1.6+ million spent ANNUALLY out of the Education Fund budget.
Question: What are the facts regarding the feasibility study that the Board approved in March?
When Lake Bluff Elementary School was built, it was considered Phase 1 of building/renovations. Phase 2 discussions began a couple of years ago and then in January 2012, the Board discussed various areas of renovation and improvement at the Middle School as part of the Phase 2 discussion. At the March Regular Board Of Education meeting the Board approved the contract for BLDD Architects to conduct a feasibility study for these projects. The project details are listed below. The Board has not approved any expenditure for these five projects. They will be a part of the broader district strategic planning process this fall and winter.
The Board of Education approved a contract with BLDD Architects to perform a feasibility study on 5 different areas and capped the total amount for all possible projects at $1.5 to $2.0 million:
1. Construct an addition to house the choral department, and additional general storage
2. Improve the school’s main entrance for accessibility and security
3. Renovate the lower level classrooms for improved instructional space
4. Remodel the Library Media Center mezzanine for more efficient use of space
5. Identify possible locations for the frontis piece from East School
The final decision on action regarding the feasibility study will occur in conjunction with the strategic planning process and in alignment with both the student achievement and facility goals.
Dr. Jean Sophie, Superintendent of Schools
Lake Bluff School District 65