Mokena SD 159 deficit shrinks but lingers
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent July 21, 2012 12:20AM
Updated: August 24, 2012 6:08AM
The Mokena School District 159 finance report for 2012 yielded better news than last year, but the district still faces some tough financial hurdles.
The district had a deficit of about $114,000 vs. nearly $1 million a year earlier, Supt. Steve Stein said. But the deficit could swell back to about $400,000, according to a preliminary budget for 2013. And Stein said district officials must consider how this year’s lower deficit was reached.
“We don’t want a $1 million structural under-run to continue years on end,” Stein said.
He said the district expects improved budgetary planning because it eliminated intrafund transfers to better track spending.
“If a line item went into the red, it stayed in the red,” Stein said.
Savings came from lower than anticipated health care costs, the teachers’ agreeing to a salary freeze, and the district saving $111,000 out of $160,000 set aside for a contingency fund, Stein said.
“I think, too, that there was a continuous ratcheting down by the staff at all levels of not spending money,” Stein said.
He cautioned that the finance report is an unaudited version. An official audit is to begin July 30.
The preliminary 2013 budget shows a more significant deficit of about $400,000. It includes a $100,000 increase in transportation costs despite decreasing enrollment, plus raises for the positions of business manager (a $100,000 salary, about a $20,000 increase over outgoing business manager Kirt Hendrick’s pay), student services director (a $40,000 increase) and superintendent (about a $10,000 increase).
Increases in technology supplies and wireless infrastructure total about $75,000.
Board member Patrick Markham questioned the jump in projected technology costs.
“I see money here for wireless computers when we’re still charging kids for a bus,” Markham said.
He questioned whether the district was budgeting “wants over needs.”
Stein said the projected budget was “very preliminary. ... All this still needs to be discussed.”
Stein also said a repeat in health insurance savings is uncertain in 2013 because the district is due for a renewal in February.