As expected, the District 230 School Board unanimously approved the 2017 budget last Thursday, marking the 14th consecutive year that a balanced budget was approved.
The vote was taken following a brief public hearing on the $130 million operating budget. Tony Serratore was the only board member absent. Although the meeting was packed with parents and students, they were there for the main meeting that followed the hearing. No one spoke when the floor was opened to public comment.
“Considering that almost two-thirds of school districts in the state are operating with deficit budgets, it makes us very fortunate to be able to keep having balanced budgets,” said Joihn Lavelle, assistant superintendent of business services.
“It is a credit to the board and all the committees that work so closely with us on the budget, and still provide excellent educational opportunities for our students,” said Lavelle.
He noted that there is a slight surplus of $86,007 this year.
“It is true that 85 percent of the budget comes from local property taxes. Ten percent comes from the state and the remainder from federal programs. It is unfortunate that that is the case, but it is the nature of the current spending formula,” he said.
“Our spending per pupil is below average,” added board member Patrick O’Sullivan.
Being able to present another balanced budget “is huge,” said Superintendent Dr. James Gay, considering that 67 percent of the 852 school districts in Illinois are unable to do so.
“We haven’t raised fees in more over eight years, and haven’t raised the tax levy in four years. We’re respecting students by offering things like the 1-to-1 technology program (in which students are getting Chromebooks), and our teachers too,” he said, referring to the recently approved three-year contract.
“These are milestones that go unnoticed. But we know it, and it doesn’t come by happenstance,” Gay added.
“I think we have tried to strike the best balance we can, between our students, staff and taxpayers. It is a team effort,” said Board President Rick Nogal.
“We keep our facilities in top-notch condition, too. We look around and keep on top of everything,” added board member Susan Dalton.
Also at the meeting, board members discussed the fact that District 230 students will no longer have to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC ) after the Illinois State Board of Education decided in July to stop using it as an assessment exam. It was only administered in Illinois for two years, and was never popular in Illinois or nationwide, in part because colleges do not use it for admissions and it was considered a waste of time. Gay said that the district had written a letter asking for its use to be discontinued at the high school level. It will still be used in elementary school districts.
In its place, Illinois will be using the SAT as an assessment. Kim Dryier, assistant superintendent for instruction, explained that the SAT, which is commonly used as a college entrance exam, will be administered to juniors in the district at a date to be decided later. She said the ACT, another college admissions test, will no longer be offered during school hours. But Dryier said students will still be able to take the ACT when it is offered at other locations in the area.