Preliminary Peoria Public Schools Budget Shows $19.75M Deficit

Aug 24, 2020

The Peoria Public Schools Board of Education will consider a budget for 2020-21 showing a $4.5 million operating loss and a total gap between total revenue and expenditures of $19.75 million.

“I think some of the revenues are a little less certain this year,” District 150 comptroller Mike McKenzie told the board during Monday’s three-hour board meeting.

“A lot of times, by this time we’re fairly certain of how revenues are going to fall. But with the state and everything, we’re a little less certain about some of the revenues, and some of the expenses we’re going to have to watch as we go through the year,” he said.

McKenzie and Director of Budgets and Compliance Carla Eman spent 20 minutes making the annual budget presentation; a public hearing and vote on the budget is set for Sept. 28.

The education fund, which makes up the largest portion of the budget, accounts for $3.2 million of the operating deficit.

“We will be looking at everything as we proceed into the fall on how we can close that gap,” said McKenzie. “What else can we avoid spending money on? Where are we going to save money as we proceed through the semester?”

The presented budget shows total revenue of $237.68 million and expenditures of $257.43 million. Operating funds account for $211.4 million in expenses and $206.92 million in revenue. The largest non-operating deficit is $9.3 million in capital projects.

“A lot of that is because we’re still spending down bonds that we issued in both capital projects and health/life safety,” said McKenzie. “We issued the bonds in a previous year and now we’re spending the money this year, and so we have an expense that’s higher.”

While the evidence-based funding for Peoria Public Schools is expected to remain the same, McKenzie said the state has estimated a 17% decrease in corporate personal property replacement tax dollars, which equates to $2.3 million in lost revenue for the district. Additionally, county sales tax funds are projected to see a 15% decline from last year.

“We really don’t know where that’s going to fall, and most of that money is going toward bonds,” said McKenzie.

Eman said all departments were asked to make a 5-10% reduction in supply purchases. McKenzie said all field trips not funded by grants have been cut and travel allotments for teacher in-service programs have been reduced by 50%.

McKenzie noted that 77% of the operating expenses go toward salaries and benefits, while purchased services, supplies and materials account for another 19%. The evidence-based funding accounts for 39% of revenue, while 28% comes from property taxes and 17% from federal sources.

Renaming schools

During board presentations, vice president Gregory Wilson said District 150 needs to begin the process of changing the names of several schools that currently honor people who either owned slaves or exhibited racist beliefs.

“As an African American school board member, I cannot overlook the past injustices of individuals that we have named our school buildings after,” said Wilson. “The negative consequences of their actions on African American lives have reverberated across generations.”

Wilson asked the district’s building committee to examine changing the names of Thomas Jefferson, Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge and Washington Gifted middle schools, as well as Roosevelt Magnet School and Harrison Community Learning Center.

Names he recommended for consideration were Rev. C.T. Vivian, Jane Elliott, Annie Malone, John F. Kennedy, Henry C. Gibson, Dr. Ellen Ochoa, and Bishop Harold B. Dawson Jr.

“We do need to examine the history of who we are honoring,” said board president Doug Shaw, “and we need to re-evaluate ‘is this someone we should be honoring?”

First day of school

While the school year began Monday with no students in the classrooms as the district opted for full remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat gave the board her reflections on the first day.

“I visited all our buildings today, like I do each year for the first day of school,” said Desmoulin-Kherat. “I can attest that it was a very, very fast day – exciting, and different for everyone.”

Desmoulin-Kherat credited the teachers and principals with helping make the first day go as smoothly as possible. Most students are participating in a distance learning program that replaced the planned hybrid model, while more than 1,700 students registered for the virtual program with flexible scheduling.

“Everyone was committed to serving our families, and problem-solving to make it the very best possible start,” said Desmoulin-Kherat.

Other business

Following an hour-long presentation on two digital intervention resource platforms recommended by the administration, the board approved all 17 action items on the agenda. Among them was a partial waiver of non-resident tuition fees for children of full-time district employees, beginning next spring.

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