The state is in year 3 without a budget as the deadline to pass a spending plan was Wednesday night. Local superintendents who haven’t seen a full slate of funding from the state this year are unsure what this means for next year.
“We’re really past the point of ridiculousness, it’s time for a budget and it’s time for people in Springfield to step up and start leading.” Tremont District 702 Superintendent, Jeff Hinman, said.
Frustration is mounting as local schools say the state is failing when it comes to funding.
“The state has a responsibility investing in our kids and when they don’t do that it puts the burden back on us to try to figure out and make our best guesses from year to year.” Hinman said.
About 40% of Tremont School District’s budget comes from the state. Taxpayers pick up the rest. It’s owed over $425,000 in areas like transportation and Special Ed.
“We’re just at a point in our district where we don’t have anything else that we can cut and maintain the level of services that we think children deserve.” Hinman explained.
With missing money from the state, some districts are forced to dip into reserves to make ends meet.
“In a state like Illinois where there’s so much financial uncertainty we’re all very hesitant to be going to the rainy day fund so to speak because it oftentimes feels like we’re in the midst of a rainy day all the time.” Morton Schools Superintendent, Dr. Lindsey Hall, explained.
Although Morton Schools receives almost 90% of its revenue from local sources, it’s owed more than $800,000 from the state.
“When you’re planning on that and then at the eleventh hour you don’t get it, that makes planning difficult no matter how much money it is,” Dr. Hall said. “We’re in a situation where we can weather the storm for a little while, but it’s really not responsible use of taxpayer money.”
This summer break will be a busy one for school leaders as they plan next year’s budget without the backing of one from the state.
“We’re all going to have to sharpen the pencil and hopefully have some gas left in the tank to finish out the school year in the black.” Dr. Hall said.
The superintendents say one positive that came out of Springfield on Wednesday is changes to the state’s funding formula which were passed. It helps make sure that every student has access to a quality education regardless of where they live, it now awaits a signature from Governor Rauner.