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D-87 Could Take 20% Aid Hit If Income Tax Sunsets

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:48:45 CDT
By: Charlie Schlenker

If the temporary income tax is allowed to go away in Illinois at the end of the year, figures released by Senate Democrats show District 87 in Bloomington would be the hardest hit school system in McLean County. District 87 would lose nearly $1.3 million next fiscal year from its current $6 million in general state aid

   
"That's not a good thing at all."

Bloomington Schools Superintendent Barry Reilly says since 2010, the state has already chopped nearly $2.1 million in state aid and he says property tax revenue has fallen significantly as well. Correction of a county government map error reduced funding by $800,000 a year. Add it all up and District 87 would see its money fall by more than 4 million in the last four years. By comparison, current State aid is only $6 million total.

   
We have already reduced staff. I don't feel we can do a whole lot more to reduce. Then you are going to start looking at class sizes well over thirty. And those are scenarios that no one will like."

Reilly says most categories of employees have already taken pay freezes. Contract negotiations with teachers have just begun the next cycle.

   
“If a decline in revenues continues to occur like this, we’re not going to have a whole lot of options out there, none of which will be good, of course.”

Unit Five Schools would lose only a couple hundred thousand dollars under the scenario even though it receives far more state aid than the district in Bloomington, a total of more than $14 million. District 87 fares worse because the formula for cuts penalizes districts that have a high percentage of poor students.

The ISU Lab Schools would take the second largest hit in the County if the income tax reverts to a lower rate. Metcalf and University High School would drop nearly $618,000 and Superintendent Jeff Hilll says the lab schools are far more dependent on state aid than most districts because there is no property tax revenue.

   
"In the short term we have reserves. But, we couldn't be sustaining that type of deficit spending for a long period of time."

   
“General State Aid is about 70% of the lab school budget, so we would have to deficit spend for this coming year.”

The Olympia School District would see its state aid drop by 539 thousand dollars. School officials across the state say the quality of education is in jeopardy if the cuts go through. Part of what concerns educators the most is the inability to plan. The new fiscal year starts in less than two and a half months and Superintendents have no idea how much they will have to work with. District 87's Barry Reilly says the general public might not appreciate how dire the situation is.

   
“People see the school buses are running. The school doors are open. Kids are going to school. So things are fine. But, the reality is, they are not!”

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