Waterloo school board talks finances

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The Waterloo School Board’s April meeting kicked off with a public hearing for the amended fiscal year 2021-22 budget. 

Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron highlighted a few main changes to the budget, the largest being the Illinois Teacher Retirement System is now requiring TRS contributions be paid in the fiscal year in which they were earned. 

As a result, the budget now reflects two months of expenditures in this category not included on previous budgets. 

Fundraisers student groups do are now reflected in the activity fund category of the district’s budget, also a change from previous years. 

Because of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, the district has added approximately 200 more line items to the budget, Charron said. 

“One of the things that’s been challenging for us this year in preparing the budget is ESSER. There are so many changes with the grant money that has come in that we had to identify where these lines are being spent and also how much of that is (going to be reimbursed this fiscal year),” Charron said. 

In total, Charron said while the education fund is approximately $1 million more in the red than originally expected, the standing of the operations and maintenance, transportation and social security and Illinois Municipal Retirement Funds’ standings have improved.

He said the capital, working cash and tort funds held relatively steady, with the latter slightly decreasing. 

“All in all, we plan on finishing the year with just over $20 million still on hand, so the district is still in really good financial shape,” Charron said. “It’s just the ebb and flow of the annual expenditures and revenue.” 

The building and grounds committee is hoping to kickstart a broader discussion of district growth soon, with school board members Neal Gifforn and Gary Most already having been appointed to a strategic planning committee on the topic.

Charron shared these discussions began as Zahnow Elementary, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through first grade students, will see at least one additional classroom worth of kids next school year. 

Because “it’s a very tight year right now,” some Zahnow students will be using classroom space at Rogers Elementary. The alternative – which the building and grounds committee decided against – was bringing in trailers to serve as classrooms. 

“We have space right now at Rogers Elementary, and we would rather kids be housed in a safe, secure structure. We felt like this is the catalyst for us to come up with some strategic planning that’s going to be taking place on how to resolve this issue over the next 24 months,” Charron told the board. “I’m not committing to 24 months, it may take 36, but we would like to work on a plan with the goal of within 24 months having all of pre-K through first grade back housed at Zahnow Elementary.” 

He said the strategic planning committee will host conversations with parents and elementary school teachers. 

The board also accepted a bid from Sonnenberg Asphalt totaling over $260,000 for district parking lots in need of repair. In addition to a base bid, this includes additional sealing and milling. 

They voted to table moving forward with a bid for Zahnow door replacements, as it came in over budgets and only one company responded. They will postpone the project to the fall.

“Part of the problem right now is companies cannot find enough workers to commit to the projects and they also have a hard time finding supplies and the hardware they need on a timely basis. I’m sure that’s something that I’m sure is affecting the cost,” Charron said. 

The tech committee will begin discussing what Charron called a “catastrophic loss” to the athletic fields’ sound system. 

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