The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board approved an $86.2 million budget by a 4-3 vote Sept. 23.
The School Board members who voted against the budget, Kay Gallo, Michael Kuhn and Jennifer Planson, would have preferred another version that set aside $1.4 million for future capital projects.
District officials anticipate receiving a total of about $87.6 million in revenue this year. When all the known expenses were deducted, a surplus of $1.4 million remained, which Gerry Yeggy, the new interim business manager, suggested be put in a facilities and construction fund “to build a nest egg.”
That money would be ready to spend on specific improvements in the future, Yeggy said. Paying for capital projects with cash is cheaper than borrowing the money because the district would save the interest, and the closing and bond sale costs.
Board member Ed Corcoran argued that while that is true, when building up surpluses,the district is borrowing from the taxpayers to pay for projects in the future, when some taxpayers may no longer live in the district.
“We should not take one penny more from the taxpayers than we need,” Corcoran said.
Yeggy said the district had a total balance of about $47 million in all its funds as of June 30.
Regardless of what fund the district puts the surplus in on paper, that tax revenue is coming into the district because it’s based on the levy the district set last December.
The discussion of whether to allocate the $1.4 million surplus to a particular fund factors into the board’s calculation of the property tax levy it must set by December.
Many school districts regularly levy the maximum amount they are allowed by the tax cap.
The new majority on the School Board believes the district should not levy more than it needs.
Yeggy had not calculated the additional taxes the $1.4 million cost the average taxpayer, but he said it would be “a very nominal amount.”
Board member Michael Kuhn said he applauds that approach. For perhaps $30 or $40 more in taxes a year per homeowner, the district could generate a $1.4 million revenue stream, Kuhn said.
Board member Victor Casini said whatever the amount, it’s layered on all the other taxes a resident pays, which also generally go up.
Yeggy, who said he has 36 years experience in school business departments, mostly recently working as business manager for the Niles Township High School District, said it’s wise to maximize the levy.
The budget Yeggy recommended had operating revenues and expenses balanced at $82.25 million. With the board’s decision not to allocate the $1.4 million, operating expenses for the school year are budgeted at $80.8 million.