After a near three hour discussion, the Oswego 308 board unanimously agreed to post a fiscal year 2014 budget that will need to find about $1.3 million in cuts or efficiencies to make the budget work.
The board members were presented with three budget options to consider posting as a tentative budget and chose to go with version B, the middle ground. Under the budget, the local property tax levy would only increase to collect on new construction in the district. However, that option means there will be approximately $1.3 million less in revenue from local taxes that the district will now have to find to make the budget work.
“We owe it to our neighbors to dig our heels in and find inefficiencies to cut,” said board member Matt Bauman.
Superintendent Matthew Wendt told the board that was doable.
Bill Walsh, before agreeing to the budget option, said they would have to find the money without impacting academic achievement.
The other budget options included raising taxes by 2.3 percent or the option to the tax levy flat, which would mean the district would not receive funds from new construction.
Despite the option to not raise the levy, homeowners will still see an increase in their tax bills due not only to operating costs but to the to the growing debt facing the district. Right now the district has a debt of $34 million and it is expected to be $42 million by 2020, said assistant superintendent of finance Dr. Paul O’Malley.
An option discussed included refinancing the bonds, which board president Bill Walsh was in support of. Wendt also encouraged the board to look at reissuing the bonds.
Board member Brent Lightfoot though disagreed, saying that solution only served to “kick the can down the road.”
The district is also facing a third year of pro-rated General State Aid cuts, this year anticipating a loss of $5.3 million. Over the last three years the district has lost a total of just under $11.1 million.
“Our problem is in a down economy we continue to grow,” said Wendt of District 308. “What is the answer to the 400 kids that walked into our schools…?” He went on to say that if all of the new students that came in did not change the number of ELL, special education or title 1 students then they would be comparing apples to apples, but that is not the case. “We are not replicating from one year to the next.”
Wendt further said that the cost to educate each child is not proportional. “There was a time when our free and reduced population was 10 – 12 percent district wide,” Wendt said. “It has now doubled.”
The board will receive more information on what taxes may look like at their next board meeting scheduled for Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. at Oswego East High School.
The budget hearing will be held on Sept. 23. The drafted budget is available for viewing at Oswego East High School and the Oswego Public Library for 60 days .