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District 200 budget balanced, but with staff reductions and limited tech purchases

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:20 p.m. CST

WHEATON – Community Unit School District 200 is looking to have another balanced budget for the 2014-15 school year – but not without a price.

In an effort to close a projected $1.3 million gap in its books, district administrators have decided to reduce staff, cut professional development, limit technology purchases and slow its classroom technology update.

"It's a very, very difficult process," said interim superintendent Faith Dahlquist. "We're not a district that has a whole lot of surplus and a whole lot of things that can be cut without impact. ... Our wish lists are long, and we never touched our wish lists. We're just looking at what we can scale back."

During the July 9 Board of Education meeting, the board voted unanimously to post the budget for public review. The board will host a public hearing Aug. 13 and is expected to approve the budget Sept. 10.

Technically, the budget includes a multi-million dollar shortfall brought on by the district's $10 million capital project campaign, but the board approved borrowing money to fund the work earlier this year.

With the cuts, the district is looking at a $420,000 operating balance, with $156,431,300 in operating fund expenditures and $183,697,150 in all of its funds. That includes a 1.5 percent increase in revenues based on 2013's Consumer Price Index.

More than 78 percent of those funds – about $122.4 million – go toward salaries and benefits, with 12.5 percent for purchased services, such as food.

Last year, the district saw a hit in health expenditures, said Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Bill Farley.

"We had a very unhealthy year, unfortunately," he said, which offset about $1 million saved in salary expenditures. "We got clobbered on that side of the equation."

Farley said staff are looking to address that this year, as well as examining potential effects of the Affordable Care Act. He also cited increasing enrollment and low funding from the state and local sources as worrisome.

Many of the areas where staff were forced to find cuts or keep to the status quo were also points where residents who attended the district's community engagement program wanted to see the district grow.

"When you sit at Engage 200, you hear how everybody will want more professional development, they would like staff for intervention, they would like a lot of things for technology, but we are at the point where we were having to cut our existing budget and not add on," said Dahlquist.

The budget can be viewed at www.cusd200.org, the school service center and the public libraries of Wheaton, Warrenville, Winfield and Carol Stream.

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