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U46 finances better, but residents protest taxes

Updated: October 19, 2013 6:59PM

ELGIN — In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the fund balance in the Elgin School District U46 budget plunged more than $40 million into the red, district officials reminded the U46 Board of Education Monday.

The school board pulled the district into the black the next year with a number of cuts to physical education, art, music, library services and athletics, as well as releasing more than 1,000 staff, according to U46 Chief Financial Officer Jeff King.

Citizens Advisory Council Chair Sue Kerr said she has lived in the district for 20 years, through good economic times and bad, large class sizes and referendums. And, Kerr said, “I think these were the toughest cuts I’ve seen in all my years here.”

But those cuts left the district $34.4 million to the good in 2012, King said. And while last year’s budget still is being audited, the proposed 2014 budget includes several reinvestments for the current school year: more teachers; more art, music and physical education; more technology, he said.

Road to deficit?

That’s not exactly good news to Bartlett resident Mike Dybas.

“I’m already seeing programs being reinstated. We’ll be back here in two or three years with another $40 million deficit,” Dybas predicted.

Kerr and Dybas were among eight public commenters who shared their concerns about the Elgin school district’s proposed 2014 budget, mostly about increased property taxes.

Those comments came during a public hearing on the budget, following a presentation on the history of the budget by King and U46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders.

The proposed 2014 budget includes $519.4 million in revenue and $526.9 million in expenditures, according to the tentative budget on display at the U46 Educational Services Center, 355 E. Chicago St.

The budget is considered to be balanced because a majority of the decrease in the fund balance is due to the use of working cash funds to finance capital projects this year, according to an introductory letter from U46 Superintendent Jose Torres.

The budget will run retroactively from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.

All public commenters mentioned their increased property taxes. Rick Newton of Wayne said his property taxes went up 6.54 percent this year; of that, 6.42 percentage points went to the school district. And Dybas said he pays $10,000 in taxes on a “modest home in Bartlett on a modest lot.”

‘You’re killing me’

“It’s getting tough. You’re killing me and my neighbors. You’ve got to become more fiscally responsible or get better results,” Dybas said.

Beth Hamparian of Streamwood suggested, “It would really be wonderful to see you hold tight for just a year to let people gather their strength.”

Cody Holt of Elgin also criticized administrator positions within the district that he believes to be redundant, crossing them off on a oversized organizational chart during his public comments. Holt also crossed off the chief of equity and social justice position because, he said, “personally, I don’t believe in social justice.”

Eliminating those administrative jobs would save the district more than $1 million, meaning it could hire 20 more elementary teachers, 17 more middle school teachers or 15 high school teachers, he said.

King had noted during his presentation that U46 actually has a much higher ratio of students to administrators than the neighboring Barrington Community Unit School District 220, Carpentersville-area Community Unit School District 300, Burlington Central Community Unit School District 301 and St. Charles Community Unit School District 303.

King said the Elgin district would have to add 49 administrators to equal the ratio in District 300 and add 56 administrators to equal Barrington.

The school board will vote on that budget at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, at the Educational Services Center.

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