Shrinking fund balance has Pikeland district looking for savings

Posted: Feb. 21, 2013 9:29 am Updated: Mar. 14, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Pikeland Superintendent Paula Hawley expects the district's education fund to fall short of projected balances by the end of the school year.

Lack of state funds -- a shortfall of $371,408 as of Wednesday and expected to grow -- likely will drop the balance in the district's largest fund from an anticipated $2.4 million to $1.87 million in June and $1.2 million in February 2014.

Another cut in state aid funding for the 2013-14 year could cost Pikeland up to $600,000, slashing in half its projected fund balance a year from now.

"The state not paying its bills is starting to have an impact on us," Hawley said.

That leaves the School Board little choice but to look at ways to cut costs. Board members Wednesday began looking at ways to save $500,000 for the coming school year.

The district already expects some significant savings -- $150,000 in health insurance costs by switching to a health reimbursement account, $140,000 with no anticipated early retirement costs and $125,000 by not replacing a retiring elementary teacher and hiring less experienced new teachers.

The district could gain more money through a combination of other options ranging from boosting fees and cutting supply costs to eliminating some pre-kindergarten services and asking sports to self-fund.

Board member Al Brokaw said the district could look at part of the fee increases for this coming year and the rest next year.

"Maybe we don't jump the fee on all of them," he said. "Maybe with driver's ed we go to $75 this year, then $100."

Decisions tied to personnel will need to be made in March with other steps taken in coming months, but if sports are "going to have to self-fund, they need to know as soon as possible," Board President David Barton said.

A financial crunch a decade ago had some of the district's sports teams working to self-fund, primarily through one large raffle.

If the board asks sports teams to self-fund, possibly to cover the transportation part of their expenses, key will be "to treat everybody the same," board member Mike Gerard said.

Other area districts, including neighboring Western, already are looking at borrowing or issuing bonds to generate more cash. "We're not there yet, but we may be there by this time next year," Hawley said.

Hawley said the district is fortunate to have reserves, but those funds can quickly dwindle.