© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Unit 5 plans $16 million in fund transfers to balance its budget

Exterior of Unit 5 offices
Emily Bollinger
The Unit 5 school board will vote on the district's annual budget in September.

Unit 5 anticipates a sizable increase in property tax revenue this year due to the area’s housing growth, but the district will still need to transfer $16 million from its working cash funds to balance the annual budget.

District officials presented their annual budget proposal during the school board’s regular meeting Wednesday night at Normal Community West High School.

The board will vote on the $232.9 million budget next month, then vote on the annual tax levy in December.

Unit 5 chief financial officer Marty Hickman told the board the district plans to use $11.2 million from existing revenue to balance the education fund, the district’s largest fund that covers teacher salaries and other major expenses, and $5.15 million for the transportation fund to cover a school bus purchase and other operations.

The district’s draft budget also projects an 8% rise in revenue from property taxes due to increased assessed values, mainly because of residential growth throughout the district.

“That will definitely help out this budget year for sure and the next budget year,” Unit 5’s director of financial services Tommy Hoerr told the board.

The district also anticipates $6.2 million in ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) cost reimbursements this year.

This year also marks Unit 5’s two high schools joining the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs that the elementary and junior high schools have been enrolled in for some time. The move, approved last year, will bring in an additional $500,000 in federal revenue. There also will be a 20-cent increase in price for some meals, though Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle said the increase is to comply with federal mandates and is still on the low end of what is required.

Unit 5 has budgeted for full staffing this year, but Weikle said the district still faces staffing shortages, including teachers, paraprofessionals and substitutes. While the shortage of teachers has been at issue for some time, recent years have been especially scant. Weikle said Unit 5 is on the receiving end of a wider trend.

“During COVID, universities saw fewer students enrolling in their education programs, which means there are fewer teachers graduating from college,” Weikle said after the meeting. “So that has an impact on us as well as other local districts. It’s a nationwide problem.”

Weikle added the problem shows signs of recovery in future years, such as rising enrollment in preparatory programs for teaching.

The number of students learning English not as their primary language rose significantly during the 2022-2023 school year, in an uptick of 15%, a much higher trend than the state average increase of 6%, according to the Illinois School Report Card. Weikle said bilingual and English language educators in place will be prepared for the students’ needs.

“We are lucky. I know some of the smaller districts, they just don’t have those individuals on staff because they don’t have the number of students requiring those additional supports,” she said.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Pepper Ridge Elementary celebrated completion of building upgrades, including overhauled climate controls, resulting in a more usable space and a high Energy Star rating award.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Colin Hardman is a correspondent at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.
Related Content