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Harris: Taking the financial pulse of D-200

Community voice

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 12:55 p.m. CST
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Brian Harris

While a statewide financial analysis shows more than 100 school districts dropped out of the highest financial ranking in the past year, Community Unit School District 200’s financial profile has been upgraded to “recognition,” the highest category of financial strength.

A financial profile provides a snapshot in time that helps the Illinois State Board of Education gauge school districts’ financial condition. In order to qualify for financial recognition, a district must receive a score of 3.54 to 4.0. District 200 received a 3.8, requiring little or no review or involvement by the State Board of Education.

As I reflect back over the past few years, I attribute our upgraded ranking to careful financial planning and creating efficiencies across District Operations.

It is important to consistently look for opportunities to create efficiencies in our operations without sacrificing the high quality education that our community expects. In fact, during the past five years, the district has made significant budget reductions to positively impact our financial health.

For example, we:

• Cut $15 million in expenses from 2009 to 2011

• Adopted a balanced budget for the past three consecutive years

• Adopted a fund balance policy to maintain a fund balance of not less than 25 percent and not more than 40 percent of total operating budget

• Negotiated a teacher contract that is tied to the Consumer Price Index and eliminates retirement incentives that increase pension obligations

Adopted in March 2012, the Board’s Fund Balance Policy targets a fund balance of not less than 25 percent and not more than 40 percent, representing about 90 to 140 days of operation. Of the original $14.4 million grant received, $2.8 was allocated for technology upgrades and $860,000 was used for capital projects.

Since 2009, Illinois has slashed K-12 education funding by more than $900 million, and I anticipate that reductions will continue. Our leadership understands that while it will be difficult to maintain financial health in the coming years due to decreased state funding, recognition status is the goal and precautions are being taken to make sure we remain in good financial standing.

Brian Harris is the superintendent of Community Unit School District 200.

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