Return to The District 15 Bond Controversy

District 15's Budget Crisis

September 23, 2010

A large budget deficit is forecasted over the next several years. But the District 15 Board has no plan to fix this problem. Instead they want to raise taxes now and balance the budget later.

District 15 published a Five-Year Projection dated March 15, 2010, that shows $55 million of deficits. Over six months later there is no visible action nor plan by the Board to address this crisis.

Instead District 15 will be raising taxes if you vote Yes on the November 2 bond referendum. They're trying to make you think it isn't a big increase, but this tax increase is only the tip of the iceberg.

The iceberg is the $55 million deficit expected over the next five years. The Board-approved budget deficit for this year is $4.6 million and it grows to a $15.4 million deficit for the 2014-15 school year.

The chart on the right shows what's going on. In a nutshell, expenditures are projected to increase dramatically over the next several years. But revenues aren't expected to increase nearly as fast. As a result the District's cash reserves will dry up quickly. As you can see, the proceeds from a $27 million bond referendum won't do much to stem the flow of red ink.

The blue lines show what will happen to expenditures and year-end fund balances if voters reject the bond referendum. In this case capital projects would be completed at the rate of about $3.5 million per year. Since other costs are increasing faster than revenues, the fund balance next year will fall below the recommended fund balance that is shown in red (based on Illinois State Board of Education recommendations).

The orange lines show what will happen if voters approve the $27 million bond referendum and the Board approves the District 15 Administration proposal to issue $16 million in bonds. Expenditures will increase for two years as capital projects are accelerated, then decrease below the blue line as very few capital projects are done the next two years. After four years the fund balance will end up about $16 million higher than it otherwise would. But the fund balance still falls below the recommended fund balance within two years.

The tax increase delays the day of reckoning by less than a year. Voting Yes for the bond referendum doesn't solve the problem. In fact, it makes it worse by pushing the balanced budget problem down the road. It's easier to fix a slow leak now rather than a gusher later.

The District should first balance the budget starting with an understanding of what has caused the large increase in costs.

Then they should take it a step further to align the budget with the expected decline in student populations. Aligning costs to student populations plus benchmarking against other districts will make the District more efficient, which means better student education and lower taxes.

Vote No to the bond referendum in November and tell the District 15 Board and Interim Superintendent Thompson that you want a plan for a balanced budget without raising taxes.

Scott Herr


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