A Look at How Financial Decisions Get Made at Maercker D60
The title of Chief School Business Official (CSBO) may paint the picture of someone who is simply crunching numbers at a desk, but there is much more to it! An essential member of the district’s administrative team, the CSBO oversees all financial operations including payroll, bills, revenue, the tax levy, drafting and managing the budget, and working with the leadership team and Board of Education on long-term financial planning. At Maercker District 60, the CSBO also oversees the important operations functions of transportation, maintenance of facilities, and food service.
Starting in July 2023, Patrick King took over the role of CSBO in the district, after the retirement of Sue Caddy. He has gotten right to work, managing the budget, working with food service and transportation providers, preparing for the annual audit, reconciling accounts, investing funds, and monitoring the Summer 2023 construction projects to keep things on time and under budget while also planning construction projects for next summer.
“People don’t realize all of the different hats that a CSBO wears,” said King. “We definitely do a lot of different things but the main goal is to try to incur annual surpluses to continue to provide exceptional academic programming, maintain appropriate staffing levels, and address critical repairs and needed upgrades in our buildings.”
Beginning his career in the private sector as an auditor for local governments where he consulted to different organizations including school districts, King then worked as Director of Financial Reporting for Cook County before he was recruited to Oak Park School District 97 where he functioned as the CSBO while earning that certification. When looking for a potential CSBO role, he found the upcoming opening at Maercker and thought it was a perfect fit.
“Maercker D60 is a great fit for me since it’s more of a traditional CSBO role and really provides a lot of variety as far as the work is concerned,” said King. “Illinois has a couple of very unique factors when it comes to school finance and I enjoy being able to maximize what we can offer our students and keep things stable.”
Part of the work is budgeting for and planning long-term facilities projects to keep the schools and required systems running smoothly. Ongoing projects get planned each year and require monitoring to keep up with changes in costs and inflation. The district has a solid fund balance that meets the board policy and a stated benchmark of 25-30% of revenue. The fund balance is used as a sort of savings account to support district operations. In most years, 79% of district funding comes from local property taxes, 8% comes from the State of IL, 5% comes from the federal government, and 8% comes from other local sources such as school fees and replacement tax revenue.
The state of Illinois uses evidence-based funding where areas with lower property wealth generally receive more funding from the state. Federal grant funding has increased slightly in recent years due to the ESSER relief grants, but those are expiring at the end of this school year.
The school funding dynamic in Illinois makes D60, and virtually every public school district, heavily reliant on local property taxes. However, the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) limits increases in property tax levy extensions to the lesser of 5% or the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the year preceding the levy year. CPI has a recent historical average around 2.5% so most years the increases are based on CPI. Another unique aspect of PTELL limits how much debt a district can issue, which is commonly referred to as the debt service extension base (DSEB).
The DSEB is based on the level of debt or bond payments that the district had outstanding when the law took effect in 1994. Because Maercker District 60 had no bonds issued at that time, the district is required to ask for voter approval in order to issue most types of debt, as was done in March 2018 when voters overwhelmingly approved the issuance of $28 million in bonds to renovate and expand Holmes Primary School and Westview Hills Middle School. Another option for financing ongoing projects is by issuing debt certificates. That debt would be paid out of the operating tax levy and would be part of the annual operating budget.
“The tentative budget was developed by my predecessor and it was presented to the board in June,” said King. “We have made some minor changes due to receiving the final revenue estimates from the state for evidence-based funding and replacement tax revenue. Special Education private placement tuition expenditures increased from the tentative budget due to new student registrations. We have also applied for and anticipate receiving approximately $300,000 in federal grant funding for facilitation of student mental health programs. There was an offsetting increase to federal revenues and expenditures for this program, so there is no overall effect on fund balance. The budget will always be focused on providing great opportunities for students in our district while keeping great teachers and staff.”
About 80% of the budget is dedicated to the salaries and benefits for staff members across the district, people who make the biggest impact on the lives of our students. The budget is a public document that can be reviewed with the September meeting of the Maercker D60 Board of Education serving as the final public hearing before the budget is approved.