District 203’s 2023-24 draft budget includes increased spending to meet specific student needs

Sign for Naperville School District 203 Administration Building sign
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As the current school year winds down, Naperville School District 203 officials are in the process of assembling the various pieces of the operating budget for the upcoming 2023-24 school year.

On Monday, May 1, administrators and the board of education began a series of discussions about next year’s earmarked dollar figures for both sides of the financial ledger.

“The budget reflects what we’re seeing, educationally, and the needs of our students and our staff,” Superintendent Dan Bridges said. “It reflects that in this moment in time.”

Proposal includes outpaced spending vs. revenue

Mike Frances, chief financial officer, provided a high-level overview of District 203’s budget proposal for the coming year at the recent board meeting.

The tentative budget includes a projected 4.78% increase in revenue, totaling $326.01 million. Tentative expenses total $330.81 million and represent a 2.47% increase.

The potential $4.8 million deficit was addressed, as Frances and the board deliberated on the draft document. If the projections hold true, the district could dip into reserve dollars in the fund balance to cover the shortfall. Frances’ estimates point to an ending fund balance in the amount of $112.16 million in June 2024, with the subtraction in play.

Speaking to the deficit projection, Frances said, “It’s a large number, but it’s 1.5% of the overall spend of the district. We do watch this, and I do monitor it every month to see how close we get to actuals.”

Identified student needs at heart of increased spending

District 203 officials are attributing the deficit, and the increased year-over-year spending, to several factors. Among them: several staffing initiatives, based specifically on identified student needs.

An additional 21.11 full-time equivalency teaching and faculty positions, districtwide, are included in the budget proposal for the coming school year, based on the board’s prior actions.

Next year’s budget plan also includes an additional 15 FTE administrative-level positions across all grade levels. The list includes a total of 7 FTE assistant principal positions at various schools, as well as other positions, such as a full-time job for a diversity and inclusion project manager, and campus supervisors at Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools.

Board member Kristin Fitzgerald said she recognized the balancing act between fiscal responsibility and carrying out the district’s objectives.

“It looks like you tried to hold expenses down,” Fitzgerald said to Frances and other administrators. “We have some important initiatives, that I’m supportive of, in terms of the needs for students.”

The timeline for budget adoption

State law requires Illinois’ public school districts have an official, board-approved budget in place by September 30. In District 203, the goal is to have the draft plan in motion much sooner.

“Our practice, and in accordance with board policy, is to work toward having a budget approved, prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year,” Bridges said. The 2023-24 school year budget officially begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2024.

District 203 will undertake its statutorily required public display of the forthcoming budget on May 12, for a 30-day inspection period.

Several board-level workshops and a citizen finance advisor group’s review also are planned in the weeks ahead. The board is slated to hold an official public hearing on the budget on June 20 and adopt it on that date.

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