Home / News / Evanston Skokie School District sees $65.7 million budget shortfall – Chicago Tribune

Evanston Skokie School District sees $65.7 million budget shortfall – Chicago Tribune


Evanston Skokie School District 65 is experiencing its worst financial distress in a decade. The Personnel, Building, Grounds and Finance Committee received a report on Feb. 12 stating that the district has a budget deficit of approximately $7 million in 2023.

Because of the budget shortfall, district administrators say the district must make permanent budget cuts of at least $5 million for the next school year.

“This seems like a lot, and I know there will undoubtedly be feelings of anxiety and uncertainty,” Interim Superintendent Angel Turner said in a statement. “Our leadership team is developing a plan that prioritizes equity and keeps reductions as far away from the classroom as possible.”

The report, submitted by the district’s independent financial advisor Robert Grossi of Illuminate, Inc., noted that transportation costs and the district’s staff size contributed to budgeting concerns.

Grossi said transportation expenses have exploded since the pandemic, resulting in the district spending about $10 million on transportation in 2023, compared to $4 million in 2020. Grossi told the committee that the increased expenses were due in part to workforce challenges.

“Many people who would take jobs as bus drivers are considering alternative opportunities, such as delivering for Amazon,” Grossi said. “They earn more money by distributing packages instead of students. Packs are quieter.”

Bus companies face increasing costs to attract drivers, which increases overall costs or forces schools to find alternative methods, according to Grossi.

Grossi also said that there is a decline in enrollment in the region, pointing to a student population of 7,943 in 2018 versus 6,316 students in 2023. Grossi also said the district is changing its teacher-student ratio. According to Grossi’s report, while the ratio of students per teacher was 14.2 in 2018, this ratio was 12.4 in 2023.

Grossi said he expects a deficit of about $14.5 million by 2029 if no budget cuts are made. Turner said the district will have an ongoing dialogue to find the “right size” to accommodate declining enrollment and budget concerns.

“Our team has collected quite a bit of data and community input through our multi-year student assignment process,” Turner said. “This includes ongoing dialogue about the need to ‘right-size’ our district footprint to better utilize our school buildings and potentially consolidate them where needed.”

Turner said the district’s declining enrollment provides a unique opportunity to meet these budget challenges and that the 65th District experience will not be significantly affected by budget cuts.

“Reduced enrollment presents an opportunity to potentially take decisive action to stabilize the district’s financial operations without negatively impacting student learning opportunities,” Turner said.

District 65 is trying to open a new school in Evanston’s Fifth Ward, and part of the Evanston City Council’s efforts during the approval process was to ensure that school would be walkable-friendly and reduce the need for vehicle transportation. Turner said the school board took necessary financial action on the school in January and “approved (a) redesign at a significantly lower cost.”

Turner said school board members will consider a mitigation plan in March.

“We will continue to identify greater efficiencies so we can deliver quality services more effectively,” Tanner wrote.

Corey Schmidt is a freelance reporter for the Pioneer Press.


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