New Lenox School District 122 board members got to work rolling out a plan to live with persistent funding shortfalls and late payments from the state.
At a Committee of the Whole session by New Lenox School District 122, board members and administrators on Wednesday took a calorie-counting approach to keeping the budget tight. Supt. Michael Sass reminded the board that the state is consistently late in paying its bills. NLSD122 is owed $1.7 million.
At the same time, Business Manager Harold Huang echoed the same cry that impacts school districts around the state: the situation is not expected to improve any time soon.
Still and all, Huang said he saw some light at the end of the tunnel. A few of the newer businesses in the village have been opened in excess of a year. And while it's worthy of celebrating a business' success, it becomes significant for the school. He had no specific figure in mind, but Culver's and White Castle restaurants are anticipated this year to boost the district's coffers.
"It's their first full year," said Huang. Last year the district got a partial payment because they hadn't been opened long enough.
It's the same thing with the newly-opened medical facilities, including Provena Healing Arts Pavilion, that have hung their shingles in town. As these businesses hit the tax rolls, it helps to stave off cuts in basic services.
On the hunt for every dollar, Huang met recently with village staff to determine whether or not some of the industrial and retail projects that have been lying limp are seriously "dead in the water." The good news from Village Director of Community Development Robin Ellis is that the currently dormant commercial and industrial projects are just that. Development is slow, but not entirely forgotten.
That was encouraging, said Huang. Meanwhile, as discussed in an October Village board meeting and shared with the school district, housing development is picking up within the school district's boundaries.
Another outcome of the lingering difficulties associated with the overall struggling economy has a more personal level. An economic downturn tends to cut into the number of babies born. Demographers have tracked the reality, and Huang followed up with some research at the Will County Courthouse. The number of pre-school and kindergarten students in the district is dropping slightly; this is a reflection of the slow economy.
Ultimately, Huang painted a somewhat optimistic picture of the future. "I think this is it. I think it's going to slowly turn around," but stay flat for awhile.
Board members accepted the information and considered at a starting point as they prepare for the upcoming levy and strategic planning in December.
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