Wilmette, News

Budget Breakdown: New Trier hopeful on revenues amid large capital-spending bills

Like many activities at New Trier High School, the district’s budget process represents a “return to normalcy” in the wake of COVID-19 disruptions, according to a presentation from Chris Johnson, District 203 associate superintendent and School Board treasurer.

Johnson presented the 2021-22 budget to the D203 Board of Education and general public Monday, Sept. 20, when the board approved the document. 

The district expects a $6 million increase in revenues to carry a $2.1 million surplus for the operating budget in 2022; however, the district plans to spend $7.65 million from its reserves to support capital projects, leaving an overall budget of $5.55 million in the red.

A majority of the revenue increase will be realized from property tax dollars, which account for 92 percent of New Trier’s revenues and are expected to increase $3.38 million from 2021 for a total of $109.37 million.

The number climbs despite New Trier losing 3.5 percent of its student population, or 140 students, lowering the school’s enrollment to 3,890. It is the smallest enrollment at New Trier High School since 2003, according to district documents.

Another $1.5 million in new dollars are expected to come from student fees, rental income and interest, according to district documents. The district also plans to receive increases in state and federal funding, including $800,000 from the American Recovery Plan.

A slide from New Trier’s budget presentation given on Sept. 20.

On the expense side, the district’s operating budget increased by less than $1 million from the previous year.

Capital-improvement expenses are expected to add up to $61 million in 2022 and will be drawn from the appropriate coffers, which are earmarked for such spending, according to the presentation.

The $61 million would be more than the previous four years of capital-project spending combined. The funds will primarily support the first phase of the $75-million teardown and overhaul of Gates Gymnasium, referred to as the Winnetka Campus East Side Academic and Athletic Project. 

Johnson said earlier in the meeting that the two large bids for the project — one estimated at $23.94 million and the other at $33.52 million — will open in the fourth quarter of 2021. 

Demolition of the gym and its ancillary facilities are planned to begin in December. 

Other New Trier improvements planned for the next year include classroom modernization at the Northfield campus and roof replacements at both campuses. 

In the operating expenses, employee wages make up 66 percent of the budget and are set to increase less than 1 percent in the next year. Compared to 2020-21, the district employs one fewer administrator and 3.8 fewer full-time equivalents this school year, according to the presentation.

Spending on internal supplies and materials, as well as postage and printing, are down in the budget. Johnson attributed the decreases to more normalcy after a spike because of COVID-19. 

The presentation was given in a public hearing. Hearing no public objection, the board closed the hearing before unanimously adopting the budget. 

A tentative budget was first delivered to the board in August. It was publicly displayed for a month before the public hearing on Sept. 20. 

Johnson thanked the administration and community for their support. 

“Without the resources the community provides, we could not provide the education you see and heard about (tonight),” he said. “The budget demonstrates the community’s commitment to the programs that we offer and our commitment to strong fiscal stewardship.”

Board President Cathy Albrecht made it a point to commend the district’s financial leaders for earning outside praise once again for the budgetary work.

“The awards — seventeen consecutive years of certificates and achievements — that’s a really important benefit to our community and thank you,” she said.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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