Photo by Theo Tate
Granite City School District Superintendent Jim Greenwald talks with his school board members during a meeting this summer.
GRANITE CITY — Granite City School District Superintendent Jim Greenwald had reason to be thrilled after the Sept. 22 School Board meeting.
The board passed the district’s 2015-2016 budget, presented to the board as a balanced budget by $150,000. The district received increased revenue in the form of general state aid being prorated at 92 percent, received an additional $318,000 from the state Loss Limit grant, and both corporate personal property replacement and local property tax revenues increased.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Greenwald said. “It might be a much better situation than we anticipated. We still have to maintain a very frugal attitude. We were campaigning last year very hard toward the tax referendum. It appeared that we were going to be in a very dire financial situation. I would say it’s still a serious one, but it’s much improved.”
Also, the district had cost reductions of $1 million and had minimal increases in expenditures that helped create the balanced budget. It also secured $5 million of cash reserves by selling bonds.
Last year, the district was forced to make cuts for the 2015-2016 school year after voters rejected an education fund rate increase referendum. The district was looking at an increase in the maximum rate of 80 cents and the increase would generate $3.8 million per year of additional revenue. But because the referendum didn’t pass, the alternative education program was eliminated and the district cut the sophomore football and sophomore basketball teams.
For the last four years, the district reduced employees by 49 positions, borrowed $10 million and closed one school, Niedringhaus Elementary. Also, revenues and expenditures in the education, operations and maintenance funds, general state aid and property value have decreased. The district began campaigning on the tax referendum a year ago this month.
The 2014-2015 school year had a deficit of $2.1 million after cuts of $1.4 million and raising fees. Greenwald said the district ended the year with a surplus of $537,000 based on its 2014-2015 audit.
“We honestly feel that if the state can ever get its feet on the ground financially, it would be a much better situation for us,” Greenwald said. “We’re hoping for some improvements. We hope that we actually get the money that the state has promised us, so to speak. We are very cautiously optimistic.”