Unit 5 is preparing for what may come after Gov. Quinn's March 6 budget speech. (photo by Zach Dietmeier/WJBC)
By Zach Dietmeier
NORMAL - Money is tight for Unit 5, but good business management is helping ease a tense financial situation.
District Business Manager Erik Bush said although the state of Illinois is seeing many school districts falling deeper and deeper into crippling debt and considering the still unclear funding for his own schools, Unit 5 is keeping its head above water.
"It's not like we've not been in financial difficulty and all of a sudden we find ourselves in trouble," Bush said. "We also know it's no result of financial mismanagement and it is simply the resuly of tough financial conditions right now."
The school board viewed scenarios of underfunding from the state of Illinois, with the worst case being a $5 million defecit for next school year. Bush said the district won't have a good idea of what is coming until after Governor Quinn's budget address next week.
"We're doing our best to manage between the tension between financial goals and classroom goals and that's not easy," Bush said. "I think it was a good discussion and anytime you look at potential shortfalls of $5 million it's sobering."
While it remains unlikely the district will see a drop in GSA funding to 80 percent, Bush added the worst case was shown to prepare for the as of yet unknown financial situation.
As for the current payroll and issuing tax anticipation warrants, Bush said managing district payroll gaps has gotten far better in recent years.
"We're down to a point where we are trying to manage a gap of days whereas five years ago it was literally a gap of months," Bush said. "While it doesn't necessarily play a direct role on how we approach the budget it's certainly another indication that we are doing the best we can financially."
Unit 5 borrowed $21.5 million in tax anticipation warrants in 2010-11. This year's authorized amount is $6 million and Bush said if the timing is right that funding won't be necessary for paying employees. Tax levy 2012 money will arrive in June.
Automatic spending cuts could cost Unit 5 up to $300,000 if they take effect on Friday. However, Bush said state issues continue to be much more concerning.
"We may have to respond to $300,000 or so in sequestration cuts but we're looking at millions of dollars at the state level," Bush said. "With that said, even though it pales in comparison it doesn't mean we look at it any differently from a planning perspective."