Editor’s note: This is the third of a four-part series this week answering questions posed about the school construction process. All parts of this series are being presented by Urbana City Schools Superintendent Charles Thiel.
How does the school district have the funds to purchase property for a new school?
Pending the results of due diligence testing, the Urbana Board of Education has committed to purchase approximately 69 acres of land for $925,000 on the east side of US Route 68 just north of Campground Road.
The question has been raised as to how the Board is able to purchase land. Where did this money come from?
In November of 2012, with an impending deficit, the Board asked voters to support an additional 5.5 mill operating levy to maintain operations of the District. This issue was defeated 58 percent against to 42 percent for the levy. Due to this failure, the Board made expenditure reductions of approximately $1 million. The plan approved by the Board called for cuts that were focused on maintaining the student experience. In addition, the plan was to make many of these reductions permanent. In total, about $800,000 of these cutbacks are maintained still today.
The following summer, the new State budget included a small increase in funding for the school district for the next two years. In combination with the approved reductions and increase in State funding, the District was able to move from deficit spending to having a carryover balance.
Through the good financial stewardship of the Board, we are still able to maintain a carryover balance. Currently our five-year financial forecast indicates a positive balance of about $5 million. This means that if the finances of the district remain relatively stable the Board will not have to ask for additional local funding to operate the district for at least the next five years.
Obviously, one of the assumptions of the future financial stability of the district is the continued future renewal of our two time-limited (5-year) operating levies.
Just as most personal financial planners recommend individuals have a reserve of funds to address emergencies, the Board’s carryover funds are used to maintain financial stability. To the average person, the $5 million carryover projected in the five-year forecast is a lot of money. For the school district, it takes just under $2 million a month to operate the school district. The Board has attempted to keep about two months’ worth of expenses available in carryover to address any emergencies.
The Board is planning to use a portion of these carryover funds to purchase the alternative site on U.S. Route 68 for the new PreK-8 school.
For previously submitted op-ed pieces on this topic, log on to www.urbanacitizen.com and browse the Opinion section.