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Batavia drafts school budget amid union talks

Preliminary spending plan of $118 million to go higher

Batavia School District 101
Batavia School District 101

BATAVIA – Batavia School District 101 is drafting a budget for the coming fiscal year even as it negotiates a new contract with the teacher’s union.

Documents reviewed by the Batavia School Board on June 18 show a $118.6 million spending plan, with $121.3 in revenues producing a $2.7 million surplus.

However, the budget remains a work in progress as the district hammers out a collective bargaining agreement with the Batavia Education Association (BEA).

Spending on teacher salaries is projected to increase by at least 2.1 percent to $46.2 million under the new budget, according to a report by school district Chief Financial Officer Tony Inglese.

“Estimated salary amounts for teachers are incomplete,” Inglese explained. “Negotiations are ongoing. Salaries are expected to be higher as a result.”

The budget includes $13.5 million for employee benefits, up 7.9 percent and “driven primarily by increasing medical insurance premiums,” Inglese reported.

Negotiations between the district and the BEA have been going well, if slowly, said district Chief Human Resources Officer Steve Pearce.

The district and the BEA are using “interest-based bargaining,” Pearce said, a negotiating system designed to avoid confrontation and seek a mutually beneficial agreement.

Rather than first advancing proposals, the two parties declare their interests and work to find a balance, which can be time consuming. The BEA’s contract expires at the end of June.

The school district has a teaching staff of about 420 full-time equivalents, according to the budget documents.

Enrollment is projected to continue its decline, with 5,688 students in the district’s classrooms at the start of the school year. The district’s pupil-to-teacher ratio is therefore expected to improve, to 13.5 students per instructor.

The 2020 fiscal year will already be underway before the final spending plan is approved by the school board in September. A tentative budget is expected to be placed on display next month, with a public hearing in August.

The budget appears inflated because it includes $27 million in “on-behalf” contributions from the state of Illinois for benefits to retired teachers.

Without including that money, the district’s revenues are placed at $94.3 million, with the lion’s share coming from local property taxes.

“Inclusion of on-behalf contributions in the budget better reflects the actual cost of operating the district and allows for easier comparisons with other financial reports,” Inglese wrote in his memo to the board.

The district operates Batavia High School, Rotolo Middle School and six elementary schools.

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