District 202 approves $95.9 million budget for Fiscal Year 2022

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Daily file photo by Sneha Dey

Evanston Township High School. The District 202 school board approved a tentative budget for Fiscal Year 2022 on Monday.

Jacob Fulton, Summer Editor

After a year filled with financial uncertainties brought on by COVID-19, Evanston Township High School District 202’s school board passed a tentative budget for Fiscal Year 2022 on Monday.

The $95.9 million budget marked a 4.8 percent increase from the current fiscal year, which Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said accurately reflects the state of the district while pandemic-related uncertainties remain.

“With all the unknowns we’ve been dealing with, we’re forecasting for next year,” Witherspoon said. “(The budget) is indeed balanced. And even though we will talk about additional threats that are there, I just want to tell you that I feel very confident about where we are.”

Chief Financial Officer Mary Rodino said this year’s budget planning brought additional complications, as it’s unclear how some sources of revenue, such as school lunches, will compare to previous years. 

While a full return to in-person instruction this fall would indicate revenue increases in many ways, financial strains many families have faced due to the pandemic may hinder a return to the same level of income from some sources. 

As a result, she said some revenue estimates incorporated into the budget will be conservative to limit cases of over-budgeting. Despite these income uncertainties, Rodino said some points of funding have remained strong, giving the district some stability.

The jury’s still out on how quick all of the recovery will be, but we do have some strong things that help us, like our strong property tax collections,” Rodino said. “They were a little later this year, because the county relaxed some deadlines, but they’re still really strong, and we had strong fee payments from families.”

Rodino said she is confident in this year’s budgetary increase, though it is higher than most years. She said some of the increase will be covered by $2.3 million in federal COVID-19 aid funding. 

The district will also pay out more in salaries in FY 2022 than in FY 2021 due to the return of employees who were furloughed or lost hours due to remote instruction, as well as the addition of a handful of new positions. 

The approval of a tentative budget will allow District 202 to function throughout the start of the fiscal year, which begins on July 1. However, some income quantities for the year, such as those from pandemic allocations, have not been finalized, which means the budget could still change. Potential alterations will be proposed at the board’s Sept. 13 meeting, where the budget for FY 2022 will be finalized. 

Board member Gretchen Livingston said clarity about the final state of the budget will be important. She also called for transparency and in-depth explanations about budgetary changes at the September meeting.

“It’s important to talk about that in this setting, so that we’re all part of the conversation, and so that our community understands and knows that we’re going to benefit from this influx of money, but we’re also having to make up for losses over the course of the pandemic,” Livingston said.

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton

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