Capital costs are rising in District 181

Moving to full-day kindergarten in the fall of 2025 and purchasing and renovating a new district office building are boosting capital expenses for Community Consolidated Elementary District 181.

The fiscal year 2023-24 budget the school board approved June 26 estimates $108 million in expenses and $86.7 million in revenues.

The budget calls for the district to borrow $26 million in debt certificates to pay for classroom construction for all-day kindergarten, Rick Engstrom, assistant superintendent for business and operations, said at a May 9 finance committee meeting.

“It’s more of a placeholder for all-day kindergarten with a payback of 14 years,” said Engstrom, whose last day with the district was June 30.

About $12.3 million for that construction is listed under capital expenses, along with $6.3 million for a new district office. The board last week authorized the district to purchase a building at 133 Ogden Ave. in Hinsdale to serve as the new district headquarters.

The budget also includes $4 million for summer construction projects, up from the $2 million a year the district has budgeted since 2017.

“We know we have to increase that because of inflation and what’s going on with construction costs,” Engstrom said.

The operating budget (education, operations and maintenance, transportation, municipal retirement/Social Security and working cash funds) shows $73.5 million in expenses.

Salaries and benefits are the largest operating expenses, at $58.4 million or 79 percent. The district expects to see a 6-percent increase in benefits costs this fiscal year.

Other significant expenses include $950,000 for new science textbooks and $900,000 to replace staff computers.

On the revenue side, local sources are estimated at $79.4 million or about 95 percent of the total projected revenue of $83.5 million. Property taxes are the single largest source of revenue at $74.4 million.

More local resources mean more local control, Engstrom said.

“We’re not relying on the state. We’re not necessarily relying on the federal government,” he said.

State and federal revenues are expected to come in at slightly more than $4 million. Projections also show increases in the corporate personal replacement tax, interest earnings and registration fees, which increased slightly in January.

One of the district’s goals is to have the ability to respond to the unexpected, Engstrom said.

“We definitely need to be flexible for the unforeseen circumstances because that seems to happen very often with school districts,” he said.

He said he’s proud that actual expenses have varied less than 1 percent from the budget for the past two years.

The proposed budget was on display at the district office for 30 days before the June 26 public hearing. The district must file the document by July 26 with the clerks of DuPage and Cook counties and the Illinois State board of Education.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean