After failing to reach a majority vote last week, the Grayslake District 46 School Board held a special meeting at Avon School on Sept. 27 to take another vote on the proposed $49.1 million budget for 2012-13.
This time, there was no tie. The budget, which has a deficit of $1.2 million, was approved 4 to 3.
Board members Sue Facklam, Ray Millington, Keith Surroz and Karen Weinert voted to approve the budget, while Michael Carbone, Kip Evans and Shannon Smigielski voted against it. Carbone was not present for the Sept. 19 meeting, which resulted in a 3-3 tie.
Thursday's special meeting was necessary to approve the budget before Sept. 30, which is the Illinois State Board of Education's deadline for school districts to adopt their budgets.
If the board had rejected the proposed budget, it would have needed to be revised then displayed for 30 days before another vote could be taken.
Legally, said Chief School Business Official Anna Kasprzyk, the district was required to approve its budget by Sept. 30 to operate the schools. Failure to meet the deadline would have left the district open to a state board investigation.
Regardless, some board members felt moving to approve a deficit budget was not appropriate.
Kasprzyk said the board could approve the deficit budget then amend it in the spring to include additional reductions. Last year, the board approved a budget that had a $1.6 million deficit, but reductions were made in the following months which decreased the deficit to $200,000.
Facklam echoed it was not necessary to "rewrite" the budget now, especially since there are internal transfers that still need to be approved via resolution, transfers that will cover the deficit spending.
The 2012-13 budget includes two transfers, including an interfund transfer of $1.4 million from the sale of Lakeview School. This money is budgeted to be moved into the Education Fund, which has a deficit of nearly $1.3 million.
The Education Fund represents 67 percent of the overall budget and is the budget's largest fund at $33.1 million.
"It seems very backwards," said Smigielski of voting on a deficit budget, which also includes a tax increase. "We should get as balanced as we can before we submit the budget."
"We have to dig in deep to look at the long-term," said Millington. This is the best picture that Anna (Kasprzyk) could put together."
Kasprzyk said the budget deficit is the result of reduced revenue and the district losing $1.5 million in state aid, "not because we're overspending."
Smigielski said she doesn't understand how the board could justify its recent approval of administrative salary increases, including one that was reportedly increased by 40 percent.
Surroz said the effort to realign administrative salaries was based on careful review, comparison to neighboring districts, a goal to maintain quality administrators, and the fact that previous wage increases were "0, 0 and 1 percent."
The increases, Surroz, amounted to only $36,000 "to bring them in line."
"That's a very small increase," he said.
Regardless, said Carbone, administrators received bonuses of $5,500 last school year.
"I agree with paying people what they're worth," said Smigielski, "when we have the money."
Surroz, who voted not to approve the proposed budget on Sept. 19, relented Thursday, stating he didn't want to "get caught up in a whirlwind of not going forward" and that he had a strong desire to see more cuts made.
Evans said he was voting against the budget again because nothing had changed and the nothing was presented on how to reduce the deficit.
"We're going down the wrong path," he said.
Carbone, who abstained from voting on the 2011-12 budget in protest and who voted against the last tax levy increase, said, "Here we are again, because it's a process."
"The process has been the same for four years and I won't agree to it anymore."
Local business owner Kris Merritt, who owns the Platford Corporation, which deals in commercial realty, spoke during public comment. He said he attended the budget meeting to learn more about the district's financial issues, which he called "scary."
"What I'm hearing is scaring me. A tax increase? That's not a good idea. A deficit? This is like a rock that is going to break loose."
"It is a dire situation," said Millington.