Things are looking better financially for Robinson Unit 2 schools, but Superintendent Josh Quick says the district "is not out of the woods yet."
Quick presented the preliminary 2014-15 budget to the school board Monday. It anticipates balanced income and spending in the transportation fund and a year-end surplus in operations and maintenance, but deficit spending in the education fund again.
Still, the figures represent the "worst case scenario," Quick explained.
"It's been a lot worse than this," he said. "I hate to say with this much red ink in it that it's good, but we are moving in the right direction."
The ed fund is starting off the new school year an estimated $256,843 in the red. Total revenues of more than $10.6 million are expected, as are expenses of more than $11.6 million. A negative year-end balance of $982,296 - a figure Quick admitted "looks pretty ugly" - is anticipated.
Other funds are in good shape, however. Transportation is starting the year with an estimated $1.2 million and should get almost $1.15 million in revenues. Quick said this will allow the district to purchase new buses for the first time in several years.
Operations and maintenance is starting out with more than $1.24 million and should receive almost $1.7 million in revenues. A year-end balance of more than $107,000 is expected.
One quirk in the budget Quick pointed out was the balance in debt service. The fund is beginning the year with almost $3.7 million on hand.
Quick explained this is because of a $4-million bond issued several years ago that must be repaid in a single installment in 2017. Most of the money in debt service is earmarked for that.
The board approved publicly posting the proposed budget at the central office for 30 days. To allow for this, the September board meeting will be postponed one week to Sept. 22. The 7 p.m. meeting will be preceded at 6:45 p.m. by a public hearing on the budget.
The September meeting could be the last hurrah for the central office on South Jackson. The board will meet at WES in October and LES in November. By the time members gather for the December meeting - which will including setting the annual tax levy - the new central office on North Allen should be ready for use. The new office is the former Bertram Pharmacy, now under renovation.
In other financial matters, Mike Vezetti of Vezetti Investments was present to update board members on district investments.
"There is some optimism going forward," Vezetti said. After five years in a "difficult" financial environment, "things are getting better slowly and surely."
Vezetti said Unit 2 has fared better in recent years than some districts because it had a cushion of income on investments from the previous few years.
The board also approved several personnel matters as it wrapped up preparations for the start of the new school year today.
Suzanne Gurley and Megan Jones were hired at reading aides at Lincoln Elementary School. Darla Boehl, Tracy Dill, Courtney Maddox and Daci Reynolds were hired as personal aides at Washington Elementary School, while Selina Harris was hired as a personal aide at LES. Julia Randolph was hired as a cross-catagory aide at Nuttall Middle School. Megan Herder was hired as a WES breakfast supervisor and Meredith Cornwell was hired as a WES lunch supervisor. Angie Keeler was hired as a Robinson High School lunch supervisor.
Suzi Menacher was re-assigned as a regular route bus driver and Casey Walls was re-assigned as a flex driver. The resignation of NMS girls track coach Courtney Klier was accepted.
Teachers and staff were back on the job Monday in preparation for the return of students today.
"We're ready to roll," Quick said, adding school facilities "look as good as they ever have."
Quick credited the work of maintenance crews, summer painting crews and volunteers who helped spruce up school grounds as part of the United Way Day of Caring. Other administrators, including LES principal Kevin McConnell, praised the volunteers.
"In all my years as an administrator, it was one of the most positive days I've had," McConnell said.
Quick said work was continuing on the new concession stand at the RHS football field. Plumbing and other interior work is underway and exterior siding should be going up by the end of the week.
In other business, WES principal Jason Stark thanked the board for hiring a sixth kindergarten teacher for this year. The move will allow smaller classes and establish a "solid foundation" for the education of incoming kindergartners.
Stark also said WES' pre-kindergarten program has earned high marks from the state.
The pre-K program was awarded the Gold Circle of Quality rating by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the Illinois Department of Human Services.
The rating is based on a set of standards that focus on early learning and development and places a high priority on instructional excellence, family services, staff qualifications, professional development and program administration.
Board members also acknowledged board president Dennis Inboden had received notice of an intent to develop a new subdivision within Unit 2's boundaries.
Deer Field Estates, a four-lot subdivision, is under development northeast of Robinson accross from Deer Run Subdivision.
According to state law, all government entities in place where a subdivision is to be built must be notified.