Winnetka, News

Expected surplus will help New Trier pay down athletics facility burden

Property tax revenue jumps about $7 million, health care costs rise 14%

New Trier High School’s 2024 budget is not only classified as balanced, but according to the administration, officials are also looking at a potential surplus.

The final ’24 budget was unanimously approved by the New Trier Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 18, with nearly $134 million in revenues, about $7 million above projected expenditures ($127 million).

According to Myron Spiwak, District 203’s director of business services, the revenue budget is an increase of 6.5 percent over the 2023 budget and expenditures increased by 5.6 percent (2023: $120 million).

“From a budgeting perspective, it’s very exciting when your revenue budget is going up at a higher rate than your expenditure budget,” he said.

New Trier’s budget process reportedly began back in January, and Spiwak said the goal is “maximizing the financial support that we can direct towards education and programs for students.” He highlighted what the budget funds, which includes curriculum, extracurricular activities including sports and performing arts, and student services, which include the district’s newly-implemented “graduating class teams.”

Included within that budget is an anticipated $3.8 million operating funds surplus.

Spiwak said having a surplus is important to the district because, as he explained, the recently completed east side athletic and academic project at the Winnetka campus “was funded primarily through bond issuance with the understanding that the bond payments will be made from operating funds rather than through referendum.”

Much of New Trier’s revenue — 96 percent, according to the budget summary — comes from property taxes (90%), investment earnings, and state and local sources.

According to the budget summary, written by Associate Superintendent Chris Johnson, the district estimates $120 million (an increase from nearly $113 million last year) will be collected from local property taxes and other local revenue will increase to $7.7 million. From the state, it’s anticipated the district will receive $3.4 million, which reportedly is a slight increase from 2023, and federal revenue is expected to decrease nearly 13 percent from 2023, for a total of about $2.3 million.

Most of the budget expenditures consist of salaries for faculty and staff, totaling $82.5 million, or 65 percent of the budget, across 676.88 full-time employees, including 382 teachers and 18 administrators. The district is up three administrators from a year ago.

Another 14 percent, primarily health insurance, goes to employee benefits. Johnson wrote in the budget summary that insurance costs saw the greatest increase, 14 percent, in at least 18 years, which was attributed to “New Trier experience and inflationary trends.”

Board Vice President Jean Hahn thanked those involved in preparing the budget, saying that it “balances our obligation to invest our community’s generous resources with our commitment to provide an exceptional educational experience for our students.”

Prior to the budget’s approval, Johnson highlighted numerous awards the district has received for financial stewardship, which includes the Certificate for Excellence Award in Financial Reporting from the Association of School Business Officials International. According to Johnson, the district has received this award for 18 consecutive years.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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