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Local school officials argue current state funds not enough

State’s funding level for education leads to local deficits

Published: Saturday, June 8, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

Local school officials are pleased that the state is not cutting education funding any further for the next school year, but they say simply holding the line is not sufficient.

After years of reduced education spending, many school officials had expected the state to make deeper cuts in general aid for the 2013-14 school year.

But lawmakers added another $150 million to general state aid, allowing them to maintain last year’s level of funding – 89 percent of the foundation it sets for per-student spending. All it needs is Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

Abdon Pallasch, the assistant budget director for the state, said he expects the various budget bills to be signed within weeks.

“I would see no reason why the governor would change the funding,” Pallasch said.

But Luke Glowiak, assistant superintendent for business at Sycamore School District 427, said the roughly $5,445 the state will pay for each student is not enough.

“It’s far less money than what we’ve received, in terms of general state aid and general state support,” Glowiak said. “We’ve made the point to the board on a number of occasions: It’s going to be a deficit budget, and part of the reason for it is the projections of general state aid.”

General state aid is a formula for education funding that takes into account local wealth and student attendance. It is based on the foundation level for how much state funding students are supposed to receive, which is $6,119 per student.

In the county, the school districts’ dependence on state funding varies. In DeKalb School District 428, general state aid comprises 16.8 percent of its revenues. For District 427, it’s about 17 percent. Genoa-Kingston School District 424 relies on general state aid for 40 percent of its revenues.

“Anytime you get more revenue, it helps,” said Brad Shortridge, District 424’s assistant superintendent for business. “That’s the problem schools are experiencing in Illinois. Most don’t have spending problems. ... If they paid us what they owe us, we’d easily be balanced.”

If Illinois maintains last year’s level of school funding, DeKalb schools will keep the $800,000 in revenue they expected to lose next school year, said Andrea Gorla, District 428’s assistant superintendent of business and finance.

Still, District 428 is expecting to run a $2 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, Gorla said.

“This is our fifth year in examining and reduction mode,” she said. “We’re trying to maintain all the programs for all students as best we can. Now it’s getting to the point where it’s becoming more and more difficult to find.”

Shortridge said the District 424 school board is committed to reducing its budget. Earlier this month, the board reinstated its freshman sports program and rehired at least seven teachers.

“We needed to look at reducing some programs, reducing the workforce,” Shortridge said. “It was a few custodians, a few classroom aides and some teachers.”

In combination with the increased revenue from the state, Shortridge put District 424’s deficit around $275,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.

Glowiak said he could not comment on District 427’s budget because it was still being prepared ahead of a June 18 school board meeting.

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