To begin his budget presentation to the Board of Education and public on March 20, Superintendent Dr. Edward Fale ticked off the many programs he said makes District 24 a special and unique place. A short while later, the board adopted the proposed $28.7 million spending plan that will go to voters in May.
“We take pride in our schools,” Fale said. “We also take pride in how our schools look.”
He said that school officials remain committed to providing an education that goes above and beyond state mandated programs in safe, clean and well-maintained buildings. Fale pointed to full-day kindergarten, instrumental music, emotional literacy and character education, keyboarding and Spanish as just some of the extras the district offers. The Spanish program in particular has become a model. “Other districts are following in our example,” he said. “We have other districts coming to visit our program all the time.”
All of these programs will be preserved in next year’s budget, which increases spending by 3.34 percent. There will be funding for an additional part-time psychologist and for a new kindergarten special education class. Money will also be set aside to increase security at the three schools, though board members have yet to decide what exactly those actions will be as they weigh the recommendations of safety experts.
Dan Onorato, the assistant superintendent for business, said the primary factors driving the budget up are not these new initiatives, but increases for retirement and health insurance costs. However, he said there are some savings in the budget, as well. Five people are retiring and those positions will be filled with employees making lower salaries. Additionally, Onorato said based on early registration figures, the district will need one or two fewer kindergarten classes next year.
The district’s allowable tax levy increase for next year will be 3.1 percent. Onorato said District 24 will be under that, but he doesn’t know by how much. He said he is still waiting for final state aid figures before determining the tax levy. “The impact on the taxpayer, we can’t give a definitive answer yet,” he said.
Onorato said the district will use $2.6 million from its reserves to offset next year’s budget, as well.
“Excellent budget,” said Board of Education President Tony Iadevaio. “It doesn’t cut anything. It doesn’t cut programs. We’re giving everybody the quality education in [District] 24 that they deserve.”
Total budget: $28,683,569
Increase: 3.34 percent