By Steve Robinson | August 31, 2021 - 10:32 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – When Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members met during their regularly-scheduled meeting Aug. 25, they were informed the current budget includes a deficit which totals $18.5 million. That amount, as it turns out, according to a District official, is not as much as it was anticipated to be.

Marty Hickman, the district’s chief financial officer, explained to Board members the district didn’t spend as much money on transportation because of remote learning during the previous school year. Transportation accounted for $8 million being spent while taking in $11 million.

Informing Board members in the auditorium at Normal Community West High School, Hickman explained the district also transferred $11,750,725 from its working cash fund placing that money into its education fund. That amount, it turns out is lower than was anticipated for the school year, as the district expected that amount to be around $16 million. The district also received a payment of $1.5 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) Grant dollars.

Looking at the eight individual funds the district manages, the coming school year will see half of them with net changes in the red. The largest of those is the district working cash fund with a deficit of $11.3 million. The district Fire Prevention and Safety account has the next highest deficit of $4.4 million, followed by its transportation fund with a deficit of $3.2 million. The district’s educational, operations and maintenance, debt service, and tort funds all currently remain in the black.

With students returning to classrooms this month, Unit 5 officials are working on financial assumptions that, among other things, food service incoming money levels should return to normal with students back in class, Tommy Hoerr, director of financial services for the district, told Board members.

Hoerr added lunches the district dispensed last year during the pandemic were paid with Federal grant dollars. This year, he added, local revenue will pay for that expense. Hoerr said

Among the financial assumptions the district is making concerning the coming school year, Hoerr said, are that income from food service should return to pre-Covid levels at the district’s two high schools and should increase at its four junior high schools. He said that ought to add $1.6 million to district coffers.

In addition to those assumptions, Unit 5 anticipates a 1 percent increase in the levy for earned assessed valuation of real estate for 2021.

Where State-provided funding is concerned, because of remote learning last year, the district lost roughly $1.7 million in transportation revenue. Evidence-based funding, however, saw an increase of around $400,000.

From a labor perspective, Hickman recapped for Board members the district continues to negotiate with employees who are members of Laborers Local 362 to agree on a contract. The district is in the middle of a second year of a three-deal with both members of Unit Five Support Professionals Association, the union representing paraprofessionals and educational office personnel, and Unit Five Education Association (UFEA), the union which represents the district’s teachers.

Board members anticipate adopting a finalized budget at their Sept. 22 meeting.

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