Engage 204 Talks Budget

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The budget was the big discussion topic at the fifth and final Engage 204 session.

Even though the district cut its budget by over $40 million between 2010 and 2014, it’s still feeling a squeeze.

“The state is saying that to educate all students adequately and to put all the additional elements in, we need an additional $62 million,” said Jay Strang, chief school business official of District 204.

And even though 204 has a slightly larger tax base than Naperville 203, it has over 10,000 more students in its daily attendance.

“We have $171,000 in property values per student. District 203 has $261,000. The state average is $226,000,” said Strang. “We have a lot of students in our district.”

That means there isn’t leftover room in the budget to meet the growing number of demands from the community – including things like reducing class sizes, finding a new home for the steps program, and installing air conditioning in elementary school classrooms.

School buildings have growing maintenance needs too, creating another demand of the district’s tight budget.

Engage 204 attendees shared their priorities at the end of the program – with reducing class sizes being one of the most common responses.

“We want to focus on the things that impact the largest number of students,” said Engage 204 attendee Tim Fischer.

Tax laws restrict the amount of extra revenue 204 can levy to the consumer price index – though a ballot proposal could be used to increase taxes enough to fund initiatives if supported by the public.

A comprehensive report on the results of Engage 204 will be presented to the school board at a future meeting.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.