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Joliet grade school board reviews tentative budget

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 10:55 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – The Joliet Grade School board has placed a tentative balanced budget on file for fiscal year 2014-15.

The board will take a final vote on the budget after a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at Edna Keith Elementary School.

According to the proposed budget, the district's four operating funds will have a surplus of about $2 million, showing an ending balance of $33.4 million, compared to a beginning balance of $31.3 million on July 1, 2014.

Overall revenues for the education, operations and maintenance, transportation and retirement funds are expected to increase about 1.7 percent in 2015 from last year – to $138.4 million from $136.1 million in 2013-14.

The budget also shows that overall expenses for these four funds, which include salaries, benefits and supplies, are expected to decrease about $1 million – to $136.3 million from $137.4 million.

"It’s a pretty healthy fund balance," said E. Wesley Russell, assistant superintendent for business and financial services.

Russell said some of the decrease in expenses includes reductions in stipends now that the district uses Skype-like technology for training faculty and staff, as well as a reduced federal rate for school districts' contributions to the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System.

Notable in the budget is an expected decline of about $2.2 million in the operating and maintenance fund since July 2013. The projected balance in July 2015 is $264,435.

Russell said part of this is due to the implementation of a two-year lighting upgrade, which is expected to reduce utility costs in the future. Much of the cost for that project is covered by grant dollars, Russell said.

Expenses incurred during the harsh winter last year also took a toll on the fund.

Also of note is about $1.16 million allotted for capital projects, which includes $750,000 budgeted for the district's ongoing technology infrastructure improvement for all of its buildings to upgrade computers systems, Russell said. The district has already spent about $1 million on this project.

Superintendent Charles Coleman said the budget was "solid," though he would like to see more funding from the state, especially when costs are increased because of changes in state mandates.

"Our folks do a great job of managing scarce resources in these difficult economic times," Coleman said.

New hires

In other action, the board hired Tanisha Cannon as assistant superintendent for student services, a position vacated in June when Sandra Thomas left to join another school district.

Cannon comes from Bremen High School District 228, where she was the director of special education services. She has also worked in special education at Hillcrest and Tinley Park high schools and was an adjunct faculty member at Joliet Junior College.

The board also hired Renita Streeter as a special education coordinator and Peter Kolinski as an academic adviser at Gompers Junior High School.

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