Video: Local attorney challenges school budget review findings
By Jim Hagerty
According to Chicago-based accounting firm Baker Tilly, the budget shortfall of $50 million projected by the Rockford Public School District is “in the ballpark.”
The firm made the announcement Monday, Feb. 28, at a special meeting of the quickly formed Budget Review Consultant Selection Committee.
For Rockford attorney Dan McGrail, some of Baker Tilly’s findings raise a red flag.
Although Baker Tilly did not find that District 205 Chief Financial Officer Cedric Lewis failed to do his job, it did note that the district could receive an estimated $22 million in fiscal 2012.
John Rossi, an accountant with Baker Tilly, noted that Lewis projected the district would receive estimated $66 million in general state aid next year. However, according to Rossi, that entitlement could be more in the neighborhood of $78 million.
The firm said corporate property tax revenues could result in a cash flow of $7.5 million.
In addressing the district’s benefit expenditures for next year, Baker Tilly estimated the administration could save between $3 million and about $4.8 million.
That, McGrail says, is a major oversight.
Speaking to the Board of Education and a packed Ellis Arts Academy Auditorium Tuesday, March 1, McGrail said if Baker Tilly could find $22 million on short notice, it could uncover more if other areas of the budget were reviewed.
“If we found $22 million in one week,” McGrail said, “I think the community deserves to look at the whole picture.”
Cedric Lewis also addressed the board Tuesday.
Lewis, standing by his projections, did not deny that District 205 may receive additional revenue from the state next year. The chance of that happening, however, is slim.
“The governor’s budget is likely not to pass,” Lewis said. “How can they afford to give us more money when they are not giving us the money we are due right now?”