D181 board OK's tentative spending plan

The $78 million budget for next fiscal year includes a healthy surplus, significant projects

The Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 Board approved a tentative 2025 operating budget of $77.8 million Monday night, just about $4 million more than the current year’s total forecast expenses.

Mindy Bradford, assistant superintendent of business and operations, presented the proposed spending plan, reporting that revenues are predicted come in at $86.7 million.

Salaries and benefits constitute the single biggest expense at $61.8 million. Bradford said the budget accounts for the raises in the new teachers contract approved last November and also includes a bump for health insurance costs.

“Benefits are budgeted to reflect a 9 percent increase due to anticipated health care increases,” Bradford explained in her board memo.

The capital improvement plan calls for $2.3 million in summer projects, $3.4 million for work on the new district office and $13.2 million for full-day kindergarten. Later in the meeting the board authorized the sale of $18 million in general obligation bonds to cover construction costs at six of the elementary schools to accommodate full-day kindergarten beginning with the 2025-26 school year.

The district also will spend $950,000 on textbook adoption and $900,000 on technology. Base school allocations, which each school receives to cover activities, were increased by 5 percent to $131.25 per student after having been at $125 the last several years.

“That works out to about $40,000 to $50,000 per school,” Bradford said. “That just helps form the basis of the building budgets.”

On the revenue side, Bradford pointed out that roughly 90 percent of the operating budget, or $77.7 million, is funded by property taxes. Corporate personal property replacement tax receipts from the state are projected to decline to $960,000 after hitting $1.7 million in 2023. The figure was annually around $500,000 for years before a spike during the pandemic.

Earnings on investments are expected to remain relatively flat at $1.7 million. Registration fees and federal and state aid also will remain largely unchanged. Bradford said the district will get firmer figures over the summer. A strong investment market will mitigate the loss.

“We’re lucky that (replacement tax) is a relatively small percentage of our overall revenues,” she said. “Because we’re seeing such strong results on our investment income, that helps offset that.”

Board member Sinead Duffy asked Bradford to provide more clarity in the budget documents regarding capital projects so residents could better distinguish which costs were earmarked for full-day kindergarten versus the district office project.

By June of 2025, the district’s year-end operating fund balance is projected to be at $37.5 million, or 48.16 percent of the operating budget. Under the board’s fund balance strategy of keeping that figure between 30 and 50 percent of the district’s total expenditures, Bradford expects the board to abate $2 million in taxes in connection with its 2024 property tax levy.

The proposed budget is on display at the district office and will remain on display until the public hearing scheduled for June 17. Within 30 days of adoption, or no later than July 30, it must be filed with the clerks of DuPage and Cook counties and the Illinois State Board of Education.

Bradford, in her first year in the post, said she inherited a strong fiscal state of affairs.

“I think this district obviously has a history of that,” Bradford told The Hinsdalean, having highlighted at the meeting the district’s three straight meritorious budget awards from the Association of School Business Officials. “It really takes all of the staff. I think it’s impressive in terms of being able to provide the services that we do in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Board member Meg Cooper praised Bradford and her team for their work

“You do a tremendous job,” Cooper said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean