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District 87 Board OKs Budget With $3.6M Structural Deficit

District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly.

The District 87 school board Wednesday night approved a budget with a structural deficit of about $3.6 million for the upcoming school year — about $2 million less than projected.

Michael Cornale, chief financial and facilities officer, explained to board members how the $86.6 million budget evolved from the last time it was presented.

Mainly the ratification of the BEA contract that took place recently. Our current figures today do reflect the actual contract values. Our additional union staff members were figured in at the new annual rates. Our OTE/Other Non-Union staff were figured at 3.5% raise,” Cornale told the board at its meeting at Bloomington High School.

The budget also includes federal and state grants. Cornale told the board there is a plan to present the impact of those grants in October.

The overall budget is larger than the district has seen historically due to funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund (ESSER III grant) that is providing the district with roughly an additional $7 million.

Superintendent Barry Reilly said there have been other times the district has received funding beyond what was expected.

“But this was very significant in our case we will have received right around $20 million over the course of three years,” said Reilly.

Reilly explained the previous budget projection did not include the ESSER III grant dollars that helped reduce the roughly $5.3 million structural deficit.

“That has afforded us the opportunity to put more resources and support the kids. So, we have hired more staff that we would not otherwise have been able to hire. It helps us take care of our needs relating to the pandemic,” said Reilly.

As far as pandemic-related costs the district may not be able to reach, Reilly said that may take years to figure out.

“It’s hard for me to tell you what that would be a day. That’s going to take time. But definitely it will cover the material things,” said Reilly.

He assured the board that all the supplies students need for a safe environment will be covered by the federal funding, but in the long run, it’s hard to identify gaps and other needs.

Public comment

The school board also heard a few public comments about mask mandates and violence in schools.

Andrew Swan told the board forcing students to wear masks was stripping them of their identity.

Reilly said he understands not wearing masks would help students become more familiar with their teachers, but the district continues to follow state mandates.

“Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and we are going to follow the mandate, masking until that is relieved,” said Reilly.

Another speaker said she was a grade schoolteacher who resigned because of the increased violence in schools.

Reilly said the concerns of violence can be due to a number of fights that happened last week, but he said the district is taking action.

“But we certainly are taking it extremely seriously. I have made recommendations for the expulsion of four students. The board expelled one student yesterday. We have four expulsion hearings scheduled in the next coming days,” he said. Reilly.

He said many of these issues arise outside of the school through social media or other methods, but are dealt with when these students cross paths.

“But if we don’t have that knowledge and their paths cross, we are left to react. That’s pretty much what had happened in the several ... that I was referring to a week ago, Monday,” said Reilly, adding the district has other other resources to address violence in schools.

Maritza Navar-Lopez is a student reporting intern at WGLT. She joined the newsroom in 2021.