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Education

District 200's proposed budget balanced, despite Springfield insecurity, capital needs

WHEATON – Community Unit School District 200 has posted a proposed balanced budget, despite financial indecision in Springfield.

The Board of Education unanimously agreed to post the tentative 2015-16 budget with a scant $55,000 operating fund surplus during its July 8 meeting.

The budget includes about $160 million in operating funds, a 1.6-percent increase over 2014-15, and relies mainly on $134 million in local revenue, according to district documents. Its major expenditure is $123.8 million in salaries and benefits, which includes a 1.15-percent increase for the local teachers' union, whose contract was ratified earlier this year.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Bill Farley said there were no major program reductions in the budget, though special education tuition, technology, health care benefits and a fiscally shaky state continue to be costly.

In the final budget numbers for 2014-15, Farley said both expenditures and revenue came in several million under projections, but that the state owes the district $2.5 million in payments, which he believes will be delivered.

Several board members lamented the lack of major investment in capital projects for 2015-16.

The district is in the midst of $1.3 million in summer work at five schools. It is in the process of formulating plans to address more than $50 million in high-priority facility improvements over the next three years, which requires about $10 million in 2016, $10.1 million in 2017 and $31.1 million in 2018.

Board member Joann Coghill said the district has been talking about the work for years without action.

"That issue has been identified, that need is not going to go away – it's just going to get more expensive," said Vice President Brad Paulsen.

Paulsen and board member Jim Mathieson said the district has some excess money in its reserves and could use a few million to jumpstart the process, though board member Barbara Intihar and district staff warned against taking too much.

The board hired an architecture firm in June to create a master facilities plan and assess the future of existing facilities and programming at the Jefferson Early Childhood Center.

Superintendent Jeff Schuler said the board and district acknowledge facilities as a priority, and estimate having a complete and comprehensive plan in the next year.

The district is required to publicly post the budget for at least 30 days before having a public hearing Aug. 12, Farley said. The board would then vote on it Sept. 16.

The budget is available at the district's School Service Center, 130 W. Park Ave., as well as the Wheaton, Winfield and Carol Stream libraries and on the district website, cusd200.org.

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