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District 211 budget lowers costs, forecasts $7.9 million surplus-BYLN- By Eric Peterson

District 211 budget lowers costs, forecasts $7.9 million surplus

Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's tentative budget for the new school year, approved by a 6-1 vote, includes slight decreases in revenues and spending, and a prepayment to fully fund the district's pension obligations for nonteaching staff.

Like the district's decision to become debt-free last year, prepayment of $10.2 million in Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund obligations reduces long-term costs and results in significant benefits and savings, Superintendent Dan Cates said.

"It is rare," he said of both achievements. "We are very glad to be there."

The only risk to the district is it makes that money unavailable for other uses, Cates said.

Some of the reasons the majority of the board voted for the tentative budget -- including a proposed $7.9 million surplus -- are why board member Pete Dombrowski cast the sole dissenting vote.

"I haven't seen enough justification in this budget that we need to keep raising the levy and sit on a $7 million surplus," Dombrowski said. "We're just taking money out of the community that we don't have a need for."

Dombrowski said he puts the pension prepayment in the same category. While the district is telling taxpayers those funds aren't needed for school operations, it's raising the tax levy by at least the rate of inflation.

Cates balked at Dombrowski's suggestion that matching the rate of inflation is increasing the levy to the maximum amount, which it isn't.

Board member Robert LeFevre Jr. defended the district's financial planning, noting that it's better to have the money for necessary capital improvements available in reserves rather than borrowing it when needed and paying interest.

"I think the way Dr. Cates described it, he effectively set up a systematic way to continuously fund the capital projects in the least expensive way that I'm aware of," LeFevre said.

Regarding the pension prepayment, board President Mucia Burke said it's a good investment on behalf of the taxpayers to hold down unfunded pension liabilities.

"It's always in the best interest to keep that number as low as possible," she said. "We're going to have retirees until the end of time."

Total revenues in the budget are $254.3 million, a decrease of 0.3 percent from last year. Spending is projected at $263.1 million, a decrease of $1.8 million, or 0.7 percent, from last year.

The district expects Naperville-based M/I Homes of Chicago LLC to pay $20.5 million for a 62-acre site in Schaumburg once reserved for a potential new school. Cates said the money will be kept in reserves until used for the direct benefit of students.

Even though negotiations are still in progress for new contracts with the district's teachers and support staff, Cates said personnel costs in the budget are no less certain than in recent years.

The final budget is scheduled to be approved Sept. 20.

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Aug 23, 2018
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