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Unit 5 Board Approves Budget; Administrators On Salary Freeze

The Unit 5 school board has approved a 3 percent increase in spending in its next budget, even as it faces an overall deficit.

The school board approved the 2017-2018 budget Wednesday night. Unit 5 plans to spend around $100 million from its key education fund, meaning the district will run a $1.2 million deficit in that fund. The district would run an overall deficit of nearly $5 million.

The state fell behind in payments to the school district last fiscal year during the budget stalemate. Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman said the state recently paid an overdue $1.5 million, putting them on the path to a balanced budget for next fiscal year.

"If they pay us everything that is due to us this fiscal year, and we've already received the one make-up payment, that puts us at a balanced budget for this year in the education fund," said Hickman. "But without that additional revenue going forward into other years, we're still back to a structural deficit."

Superintendent Mark Daniel said if the state does not keep up with payments, Unit 5 could potentially cut programs and teachers to save money.

Daniel said administrative staff, including himself, are on a salary freeze.

Safe and Accepting Schools

In light of NFL protests across the nation, Daniel said he wants to ensure schools are safe and accepting environments. Daniel said educators have the responsibility to implement equality in schools.

"And that racial bias is curtailed in all possible ways," said Daniel. "Our country is a wonderful country with rights, and as such, we also know they can express their feelings and ideas without any type of ... persecution."

Daniel said he hopes students who choose to participate in protests do so peacefully and grow from that experience. Daniel was reflecting on a documentary film shown in Normal this week about the black middle class and institutional racism.

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Baylee Steelman joined us in November 2016. She is a journalism major graduating in May 2018. She mainly covers Bloomington City and Normal Town Council meetings, Unit 5 School Board meetings, produces the weekend News In Review, and helps run GLT events. Baylee also produces and anchors at TV-10, Illinois State University's student TV news station.
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