HIGHLAND PARK, IL – Warning that a structural budget deficit and unmet need for facilities would blow the district’s finances, officials from Township High School District 113 brought up the idea of consolidating the two-school district on Tuesday.
District officials also announced plans to hold two town hall-style meetings next month to discuss the district’s long-term financial sustainability.
The district has a fund balance of $ 50 million this year, but if it stays on its current budget path, its annual deficit will grow from $ 1.1 million to more than $ 5 million and more than that Consume half of the balance in the next decade, according to a district forecast. If the funds run out, the district risks higher borrowing costs and challenges with unexpected expenses.
The district also has significant infrastructure and construction costs for the Deerfield and Highland Park high schools.
Superintendent Bruce Law said there are serious issues with the DHS auditorium, which has had at least an extended period of closure due to safety issues and requires regular inspections to ensure it meets minimum safety standards.
“There are problems. There are ADA problems. There are problems on the fly floor,” Law said. “There are a lot of problems in the auditorium. I think everyone knows this is a room that maybe it’s not too far to say that it doesn’t work because people can’t be in it.”
Similarly, the HPHS library needs a significant investment, the superintendent said.
“The roof is failing. The HVAC is failing,” he told the board. “You can see these stairs. There is now a way for a person in a wheelchair or a walker to enter the library, but in terms of accessibility, our students and staff fail when they are in a wheelchair or on a walker.
The infrastructure alone is estimated to cost an estimated $ 76.1 million. The auditorium would cost about $ 34 million to repair, while the library would require nearly $ 8 million in work, according to district estimates.
The estimated bill for required infrastructure, top priority investments, and fixes for the Deerfield High School Auditorium and Highland Park High School Library is more than $ 177 million, rising to nearly $ 228 million, with expenses included lower priority are included.
According to administrators, without a referendum, the district can only raise around $ 88 million in mortgage lending over the next ten years.
Administrators said more than $ 78 million of the district’s approximately $ 104 million annual budget is used on salaries and benefits, which are growing faster than the district’s property tax revenues, which are tied to inflation.
At the same time, according to district officials, the district is facing a decline in enrollments without a proportional decrease in the number of staff required to provide the same services.
Estimates by a demographer hired by the district as part of its master planning process suggested that the 3,300 student population is likely to decline by about 10 percent and will settle at about 2,900 students by the end of the decade
“Disenchantment doesn’t even begin to describe the extent of the problem,” said board member Jaime Barraza. It is important for the board to deal with it publicly. “I think it’s a very responsible thing not to bury that and – we keep saying: ‘Kick the Dose’ – keep kicking the can.”
District 113 boards of directors and board members have identified at least three possible ways to address the guidance they have issued.
It could maintain two locations – “knowing that we will either fix and replace the infrastructure or try to get a big land tax hike through a referendum” – while drastically reducing spending, including on student programs if needed.
Alternatively, the district could use a high school for a freshman campus that moves to another campus for students, juniors, and seniors, which could cut the required construction costs while requiring annual budget cuts and an almost equally large referendum on property taxes.
Or the district could gradually merge both schools into a single campus over a period of years, which would limit overheads and infrastructure costs and require a smaller referendum to pay for the construction of a consolidated school.
That option would give the board about $ 4.3 million in the fiscal year of consolidation. The consolidation would cut about 25 percent of salaries and 50 percent of material expenses, and allow the board to generate a surplus for four years before the deficit returns.
“No option was selected,” Law said. “There are more options. Those are the three. Nothing has been decided yet.”
Board secretary Gayle Byck said the district will no longer be able to provide the same services as it does today amid structural deficits, declining enrollments and spending on facilities.
“Nothing will be painless. It just doesn’t work that way,” said Byck. “And believe me, after the last 18 months we’ve all had, it’s very tempting to knock the can down, but that’s what we were chosen for, it’s about dealing with such tough decisions, having the trustee.” Responsibility to taxpayers. “
City hall-style tours and meetings are planned for October 5 at Highland Park High School and October 19 at Deerfield High School. The construction tours begin at 6 p.m. with subsequent listening sessions from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Board chairman Jodi Shapira said district officials are trying to ensure parishioners can attend remotely. She said the board was determined to seek input from residents and take the tough steps to address tough long-term questions about the future of the district.
“We are here and we are here to listen and we are here to learn. And find a solution and I’ll name a school after you, ”Shapira said. “Just kidding – but I could.”
Watch the discussion on September 28, 2021, Township High School District 113 school committee meeting:
More information is expected to be added to the Future 113 section of the district’s website focusing on its long-term planning and sustainability. Questions, comments, and ideas can also be emailed to [email protected]