School Board adopts budget sans new cuts

District 51 School Board members adopted a budget without millions of dollars in cuts for the first time in five years Tuesday.

After cutting $35.3 million over the course of the last four budget cycles, the board was able to approve a 2013-14 budget with $3.9 million more in general fund revenue compared to 2012-13’s general fund.

A mandated increase in the amount of money the district has to devote to the PERA educator retirement fund and an anticipated decrease in student enrollment, factors that led to budget cuts in the past, are still factors in 2013-14. There are new challenges to revenue as well, including less property tax revenue due to lower home valuations and a 61 percent decline in federal funding that District 51 Chief Operations Officer Melissa Callahan DeVita attributes to sequestration, a decrease in allocations and the end of some competitive federal grants for the district.

But there is more money in the budget this year from some other local tax sources, including specific ownership taxes, and more money from the state. State funding shortfalls were the source of most of the cuts in recent years.

Some budget adjustments also were made in past years to restore a classroom day cut in the past and, last year, to bring back experience-based pay increases on District 51 pay scales that had been frozen. The district brought back pay increases based on educational attainment for teachers this year, another item that had been frozen. An agreement between the district and its classified employees approved by the board calls for a 2.08 percent increase in pay, plus another 0.52 percent raise if the budget allows.

Tuesday’s meeting was the final meeting of the school board in 2013-14. Other business included:

■  The board approved another five-year contract between the district and charter school Independence Academy, plus approval of a lease agreement extension that will keep the charter school at its current location in the old Lincoln Park Elementary for at least another year.

■ The board decided to adopt the state’s model for educator evaluations for 2013-14 to coincide with the implementation of Senate Bill 191.

■ The board agreed to selling the modular unit that had housed Glade Park Community School until it closed last month to Glade Park resident Ed Cherry for $20,000.


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