CCSD21 ended its fiscal year 2022 with the highest designation from the Illinois State Board of Education for its financial management, as well as a clean audit – that contained a surplus – prepared by consulting firm Baker Tilly.
“By analyzing the need for spending and committing to its priorities, the district has continued to build surpluses without undermining the education program,” the audit read. “In fact, the district increased its total [full-time educators] committed to educating all students, with a focus on enhancing the delivery of special education services.”
Micheal DeBartolo, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, noted that these surpluses occurred as planned expenses did not necessarily come to fruition for a number of reasons. “Whether it be that those needs just didn’t arise, that we were able to use other grant funds or even other revenue sources.
He also credited administrators at each school for being mindful of what they need year to year as well as being resourceful. As the district tries to incorporate zero-based budgeting, which calls for budgeting everything needed from the ground up instead of receiving a sum of money and allocating from there, these administrators – especially when given information from previous years – have “tried to hold their requests steady unless a true need has developed,” DeBartolo said.
DeBartolo added that Education Stabilization Fund (ESSER) dollars provided to the district also offset many higher costs and, in the end, provided surplus funds.
While this news is welcome, the district’s goal is not to have a surplus, as it does not want to operate as a for-profit entity. “We want to budget as closely to real as possible, so that we know what those extra funds can be used for in real time or be put toward future projects, whether those be curriculum needs, whether those be extracurricular needs, whether they be capital projects,” DeBartolo said.
The district has identified the surplus in its fiscal 2023 budget, and intends to transfer the “vast majority” of it into capital projects so that it can continue to complete and expound on referendum projects – including 21st century furniture in classrooms – and use them for needs that are rapidly approaching, including playgrounds, bathrooms and parking lots. Field and Riley elementary schools will be the first two to receive renovated playgrounds, both of which are expected in late July.