Public education deserves federal funds

Lauren Hansen, Editor-In-Chief

Before the signing of the state budget, due to increased costs and decreased funding by the end of the school year, District 202 could have faced an operating budget deficit of roughly $9 million.

Governor Bruce Rauner officially signed the House Amendment 5 to Senate Bill 1947. This brings Illinois into an “evidence-based model” formula for education funding. It calculates a district’s individual needs and local revenue when providing state aid to prioritize districts most in need of funding.

“This is what compromise looks like. This is it. A bill that none of us like at 100 percent,” Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Westchester, said during debate.

The district doesn’t know its final budget yet. It will take a few months to calculate out the new budget, but it will be reimbursed based on last year’s data.

“The original Senate Bill 1, which the Senate passed, would have given us $5.8 million more each year. Governor Rauner’s version (in which he cut a lot of money for Chicago and gave it to other districts) would have given us about $7.9 million more each year. I expect the final amount will be somewhere in that range, “Tom Hernandez, director of community relations said.

If the state doesn’t supply districts with their obligated money, the schools have options. They can close the schools during the year, borrow money or sell tax anticipated warrants (TWA’s) similar to a loan.

“Our local property tax payers, the residents of the school district, have stepped up and paid their fair share for education and the state should do the same,” Superintendent Dr. Lane Abrell said.

The deficit hasn’t affected building operations or staffing, but if the lack of state funding continues, cuts to extra-curriculars and staff may be a possibility. Capital- material- projects and initiatives such as renovations could be deferred and prevent the hiring of new teachers. Purchasing new computers or textbooks would be delayed in order to have those funds available to assist with daily needs.

“If the state doesn’t pass the budget, it could impact all school districts across Illinois. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” Principal Ross Draper said prior to the signing of the bill.

(A fiscal- financial- year is July 1 to June 30 the following year) District 202’s 2017-2018 budget with debt service and capital projects is up $11.3 million from last year, but the estimated revenue is down $5.7million from the last fiscal year. Of that, district 202’s 2017-2018 operating budget shows $252,294,055 in known expenses and only $243,027,868 million in revenue. An ‘operating budget’ is the education, general operations and maintenance, transportation and funds used to decide a school district’s financial health.

Abrell said some changes needed for the overall state funding of schools is “one, schools would receive their money on time and two if the State of Illinois said districts would be getting X amount of dollars they should receive X amount of dollars. Don’t tell schools you’re going to give them X and then give me Y.”

The budget is adjusted annually based on expenditures and revenue. Costs can be estimated, but a district never knows its revenue until the state decides on a budget, since the state and local property taxes make 93 percent of the proceeds. Expenditures are calculated by the assistant superintendent for finance and business and his staff as well as the superintendent. The final cut is presented to the school board who approves or denies it.