Urbana school board OKs tentative budget

URBANA – After wrestling for months with fiscal realities, Urbana school board members Tuesday passed a tentative budget for the upcoming school year that's in the black – for now.

"Everything's very tentative," said Carol Baker, district business director.

"We're showing a $1.3 million education fund surplus, but that doesn't include any salary increases," Baker said. She added that there's still potential for state payments to be prorated in the future.

"I'm assuming we're going to get all the money," Baker said of the $43 million budget.

But some specific income and expenses are still unknown, Baker said this morning. State aid won't become finalized till later this summer. And the district's contract with its teachers and support staff expires in August. Negotiations for a new contract are under way, Baker said.

"We started last year with a $2.3 million deficit, and we've done a lot of cutting, but there's still a lot of cutting to do," said board President Joyce Hudson. "We'll have lots more details in August."

A public hearing about the budget will be held in September before the board gives its final approval.

In the major funds, education fund revenues are expected to be $33.6 million, and expenditures are budgeted at $32.3 million; operations and maintenance fund revenues are estimated at $2.7 million and expenditures are expected to be $2.9 million; and transportation fund revenues are estimated to be $1.8 million and expenditures are expected to be $1.7 million.

Total revenues for all funds are expected to be $43.7 million and expenses are expected to be $43.2 million, for a surplus of $500,000. Baker said expenditure estimates are comparatively firm, but she's waiting for more news about revenues.

The board also approved a budget for adult education programs that's balanced with $1.9 million in revenues and $1.9 million in expenditures.

Program head John Muirhead said he's still waiting for information about some grants.

Urbana Middle School Principal Nancy Clinton announced that as of Tuesday, all teachers' belongings had been removed from the Urbana Middle School East campus in the former Jewel store on Philo Road and taken to the main campus where the sixth-graders this fall will rejoin the seventh- and eighth-graders.

"I was stunned at what the teachers had done at the east campus to make it into a functional school," Clinton said, adding that the theme at the main campus for the upcoming school year will be a "reunion."

Ota Dossett, director of facilities, said the move has gone very smoothly, thanks to staff members who planned the logistics and workers who helped move boxes and equipment.

"It was nice to take the sign off," he said of the temporary canvas campus identification cover thrown over the Jewel sign.

Urbana High School Principal John Woodward introduced board members to the new assistant principal there, Laura Taylor. Taylor was formerly a special-education teacher at Champaign's Columbia Center.

Also Tuesday, board members disagreed about a track resurfacing contract that was passed with the consent agenda but later was called up for special attention by Dimit.

Dimit said he believes it's short-sighted to accept Dossett's recommendation to skip a third coat on the track that would add about $7,000 to the cost, because of budget constraints.

He said a third coat might add about four years to the life of the track.

"I'm going with Ota's first recommendation," said Cope Cumpston. "I'm looking at the things we've already had to cut out."

She and Jerry Moreland, both elected to the board in April, voted not to spend the money for the third coat, but all other board members voted to spend the extra money so the amendment passed.

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson stopped by at the beginning of the meeting, and Superintendent Gene Amberg seized the opportunity to ask her about the status of funds for a four-classroom addition to King School, a project that's been approved by the state but still hasn't been funded.

Jakobsson said it's the kind of project that's "very highly considered" by Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration but "they're waiting for final approvals."

Amberg said he's worried that funds might be imperiled by the state's budget troubles.

You can reach Anne Cook at (217) 351-5217 or via e-mail at acook@news-gazette.com.

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