Champaign schools budget shows deficit

Champaign schools budget shows deficit

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district's budget shows a $3.7 million deficit for the current fiscal year.

The school board approved the fiscal year 2011 budget Monday night.

The budget shows nearly $98 million in revenue and $101.67 million in expenditures. Those figures are for all operating funds and exclude the debt service and capital project funds, which are for specific purposes and not the daily operation of the school district.

The deficit will be covered, in part, using about $3.3 million from the district's fund balances. That will reduce the fund balance from $18.8 million to almost $15.5 million.

The district will also use interest from its working cash fund and about $435,000 it expects to get from the sale of property near Barkstall and Dr. Howard elementary schools to cover the rest of the deficit.

The deficit could also end up being smaller than expected. Chief Financial Officer Gene Logas included in the budget 70 percent of the restricted state money it expects to receive this fiscal year. If the district gets all the money promised to it by the state, the budget deficit could be $1.5 million, rather than $3.7 million.

The budget reflects about $2 million in cuts the district made last spring. Logas expects the district will have to make additional cuts to its fiscal year 2012 budget.

In other business, the board decided to use a general contractor when building a new Carrie Busey Elementary School in Savoy, rather than the construction manager method the district is using for its current construction projects at Garden Hills and Washington elementary schools.

Board members said they want to minimize the risk to the district of cost overruns on a project.

"This is the way a lot of folks do business, and our staff felt this was the best way," said board President Dave Tomlinson. "We want to minimize the risk to the board and pass that along as much as possible.

"We felt with the bidding climate the way it is, that was the way to go," he added.

The district's administration recommended using a general contractor rather than a construction manager. It noted most school construction projects use a general contractor, and that method has the general contractor taking responsibility for building the project within the agreed-upon cost.

The construction manager method does not eliminate the risk of bids coming in higher than estimates.

Bids for the Washington project came in about $2 million over budget, requiring the district to revise the design for the school and rebid several areas of the work this summer. That brought the project back within budget.

Administrators said they believed the current construction climate would produce competitive bids for the work.

The board also talked about hiring an architect to serve as its representative on the construction site, for both the Carrie Busey project and renovation work planned for four elementary schools. The construction manager serves that role for the Garden Hills and Washington school projects.

The district plans to build a new Carrie Busey Elementary School in Savoy that would be open in the fall of 2012.

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sacrophyte wrote on September 30, 2010 at 8:09 am

Thanks for covering this, Jodi.

Any thought as to why the district did not choose a general contractor in the first place for BTW if they are more common? Was it perhaps just a case of being overly optimistic and going with a low bidder?