Homewood District 153 budget will balance with referendum funds

The District 153 school board approved a balanced 2018 budget of $22.26 million because of an additional $640,000 raised in the 2016 referendum.
 
Revenues, expected at $21.62 million, cannot meet all the expenses despite the administration’s best attempts at holding the line on costs.  The board unanimously approved the budget at its Sept. 18 meeting.
 
Taxpayers cover 64 percent of the budget, 4 percent is from federal grants and 32 percent comes from the state of Illinois through General Student Aid (GSA) and grants for categoricals, such as special education costs and transportation expenses.
 
Homewood residents approved a referendum in April 2016 that gave District 153 the ability to sell $9 million in bonds to cover unfunded school expenses over the next seven years. The bond money will close the $640,000 gap in this budget.
 
The Illinois Legislature approved a new funding package for schools in August. It guarantees that no district will receive less money than it received last school year. Additional dollars will be allocated using an “evidence based” model, although the state hasn’t yet told schools what the model’s specifics are.
 
Superintendent Dale Mitchell said the state has designated four tiers in its new evidence based model for school funding.  Tier 1 includes the poorest districts. District 153 is in Tier 2 because its school funding is considered 68 percent adequate. 
 
He believes Homewood schools will see an increase in funding, but he is not sure how much more will be coming. The district will probably amend this budget in spring to reflect the real numbers.
 
“Things are starting to turn around from 10 years of stagnation,” Mitchell said. The district added another kindergarten class in August because enrollment jumped from 160 to 196 students. Class sizes in first and second grades also showed increases.
 
“Is it a trend or a blip?” he wondered. “We can’t say just yet.” It won’t mean any immediate state support increases, however, because it takes months for the state to recognize the need for additional GSA money due to upward student enrollment.
 
Overall enrollment is 2,002 children: 660 at Willow School, 616 at Churchill School and 726 at Hart School. Mitchell said Willow and Churchill are at or near capacity. 
 
In other business, the board offered a moment of silence in memory of Willow School kindergarten teacher Jen Boyer who died Sept. 12 after a short illness. She joined the staff five years ago after completing her student teaching at Willow. She previously was a teacher at Ingalls Memorial Hospital daycare program and a camp counselor for the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.

The board applauded its Hart baseball team that advanced to sectionals in the Illinois Elementary School Association’s league play after defeating Flossmoor’s Parker Junior High 5-1 in regional play Monday, Sept. 18. Hart will next play Manteno Middle School on Saturday in Manteno.
 
The Jerry Morin Educational Excellence Award was presented to staff for their outstanding efforts last school year. Recipients are Jenifer Keating, a Hart School math teacher; Vickie Nieto, a third grade teacher at Churchill School; Denise Mastela, a physical education teacher at Willow School; and Ann Snedden, district office staff member.

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