Unit 5 in the red as school board adopts amended budget

Unit 5 school board adopted an amended budget at a meeting on Wednesday night. (Photo courtesy: Blake Haas/WJBC)

By Blake Haas and Howard Packowitz

NORMAL – The Unit 5 school board Wednesday night adopted an amended budget for the fiscal year ending this month, and it shows a multi-million dollar deficit in the education fund.

The deficit is at $6,416,258, according to Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman. Declining revenue is due to slow growth in property values and higher spending to boost teacher salaries.

The district is temporarily borrowing money to fill the budget gap over the next two years, with the board forced to cut spending or ask voters to approve a tax hike referendum to increase revenue.

Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman said conversations about the deficit need to take place.

“It is certainly something that our school board and community as a whole will have to have a conversation very soon about,” added Hickman.

“What do we value in K-12 education in our community. We heard some great presentations about some of the course offerings in our partnership with Heartland that we have. Our conversation with the community will be about, are we offering everything that we would like to offer, and if so, then how are we going to fund that going forward.”

Last fall, the school board decided to borrow money by selling $16.5 million in bonds over a two-year period. Administrators said the cost of the borrowing to Unit 5 property taxpayers is an extra $205 a year for the owner of a $177,000 home.

Blake Haas can be reached at Blake.Haas@cumulus.com.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at Howard.Packowitz@cumulus.com.

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