Urbana school board to vote on deficit budget

Urbana school board to vote on deficit budget

URBANA — The Urbana school board Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a budget for this school year that shows about a $6 million deficit.

The board will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Jean F. Burkholder Administrative Service Center, 205 N. Race St., U.

The budget shows the school district expects to receive about $63.8 million in income this year and spend about $69.8 million.

The budget reflects that the school district won't receive about $1.5 million in property tax dollars from Carle Foundation Hospital because of a state law passed last year. That law made Illinois health centers exempt from property taxes if they could show their "charity care" exceeded their tax payments.

Carle Foundation Hospital was exempted from paying property taxes for the 2012 tax year.

If Carle hadn't been exempted, the school district would have received about $3 million total in property tax payments in the 2013 calendar year. It would have received about half in June, which was in the school district's previous fiscal year.

It would have received the other half during this current fiscal year, Baker said.

The school district continues to hold about $10.8 million in escrow that Carle paid in property taxes in previous years, but is the subject of litigation among Carle, the school district and other Urbana taxing bodies.

About $4.5 million of the budget deficit reflects construction within the school district, said Carol Baker, the school district's chief financial officer. The school district sold bonds to pay for the projects in previous years, and so has the money on hand for the bills it will pay this year.

"We plan it that way," Baker said. "That's intentional."

The school district's education fund, from which it pays teachers, shows about a $2.1 million deficit, which Baker said the school board will have to discuss in the future.

Federal sequestration also means that the school district is paying for some things that were previously paid for with federal money, Baker said.

That includes about $150,000 for teacher aides who were previously paid by federal special education grants, about $235,000 for Title I teachers .

Sequestration also means about a 9 percent reduction in interest rebates the school district receives from the federal government on bonds it sold for construction.

The bonds are alternative revenue bonds, which means they're paid for with money from the school facilities sales tax. That reduction means the school district will have to use its sales tax money to pay about $56,000 more in interest annually.

That money has to come from somewhere, because we still have to make the payments," Baker said.

The budget also includes about $350,000 in contingencies, including about $250,000 for new textbooks and $100,000 for the district's network infrastructure.

Baker said the latter was included after the school district last year had to pay $100,000 for a network problem and had to go to the school board to approve the expense.

Baker said she's hoping the school district won't have to spend that money, but it's included in the budget, just in case.

She said district officials want to be able to buy new textbooks but "probably won't be able to at this time."

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