District 56 Adds $525,000 to Budget

District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields reported to the board, meeting in Clinton High last night, that it was a “very good, clean, crisp opening of school.” As of Friday, the 5th day of class, District 56 had 2,933 students, up 16 from the same time last year. O’Shields said it appears the tough economic times are turning around for the district.

Financial alterations to the 2012 – 2013 budget were made last night. Noting the difficulty of setting a budget in June, when the state legislature had not finalized its budget for education, District 56 Finance Director Gerald Robinson requested minor changes in teacher salary structure, expected to average an increase of around $2 a teacher for the year. A bigger item was potentially up to $400,000 for adjustments for school bus driver expense. Other changes approved included a new schedule for supplemental pay, and codifying pay for retired teachers at 75% of that for non-retired teachers of similar qualification. Superintendent O’Shields said it’s been practice for a few years.

Even more discussion resulted from another financial request. The board approved Dr. O’Shields’ request for about $525,000 in funds from the district’s reserve fund to cover items already approved, some already underway, and others he said just needed to be done. The latter included local funding for the Teacher Incentive Program, or TIF, operating in three schools, with another pending.

The list of items funded by the half-million dollar “draw-down” included the $185,000 in work on Wilder Stadium, which the trustees agreed to last month.

Board member Elizabeth McKinney asked Gerald Robinson if drawing down the cash reserves could hurt District 56’s rating on any future bonds. Dr. Robinson explained how the process for assessing a bond rating works, saying that the more cash held in reserve, the better the district looks. He said that some suggest 3 months operating expense in reserve, but that the 10% of annual reserves policy held by District 56 is acceptable. He said he believes, once an audit is complete on the past fiscal year, that the District will have ended the year with a fund balance of $3.2 million. The $525,000 requested by the Superintendent would leave the balance above that 10% figure. Robinson noted that the current budget project expenses for the year at $19,275,523. The extra half-million approved last night raises that to $19,800,525.