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It has been a week since the passing of Senate Bill (SB) 6 and SB 9, and the overwhelming concern for the future of schools in Illinois are still on the table as a school budget has not been implemented. The Illinois Governor and the state legislators volleyed the state budget back and forth in overtime sessions in Springfield past their 10 days of assigned special sessions. On Sunday, July 2, the House passed a 5% tax hike with 72 votes, with the help of Republicans. The IL Senate and House prepared the budget for Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign Tuesday morning, which was then vetoed due to the lack of his pro business agenda reforms. Shortly after, the Illinois Senate and House voted to override his veto for the $36 billion budget, making this the first budget since 2015.

The people of Illinois are getting anxious as the sessions continued, but no resolutions were really being made. With Gov. Rauner avoiding any questions from the press, it was difficult to determine what was being negotiated behind closed doors. As we entered the third consecutive year without a balanced budget, people are losing theirs jobs, children are at risk of their schools closing, people are fleeing the state, and the people are mad as hell.

Amongst the people, three Administrators from their District Board of Education, joined the House Elementary and Secondary Appropriations Committee hearing to give their testimonies about the detrimental effects that the lack of a state budget has caused. One of the Administrators is Tony Sanders, CEO of District U46, who presented his Boards’ Fiscal Year 2017-2018 (FY18) proposals that thoroughly hypothesized the implications necessary if they were to reduce their expenditures.

“Like the hundreds of other school districts across the state, we are once again trying to plan for the coming school year without all the information, without any idea if and when we’ll see a state budget or the $24 million owed to us this school year,” Sanders said on the U-46 website. “That said, we are plotting out some possible reduction scenarios while continuing to put the majority of our limited resources into the classroom to serve our nearly 40,000 pre-K through twelfth grade students.”

The demand for a full budget is high and this current budget will place immense pressure on school districts to make serious sacrifices on programs and infrastructure maintenance because the education appropriations are still on the table.

U-46 is currently the second largest unit school district in Illinois, located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, headquartered in Elgin, IL. The district administrators presented their FY18 budget proposal to the Board of Education last month before heading to Springfield. The budget weighed out two options if any budget passed. On the U-46 website, the Board’s letter also included, “The State of Illinois has been funding K-12 schools under a stop-gap budget but has failed to pay districts all they are owed, including $1.1 billion for critical student services such as transportation, special education and bilingual education.”

The areas with the most potential to save money are far from eliminating all equipment spending, reducing school and department supply budgets in half, and this could provide an estimated savings of $13 million. As of these current budgets, all potential state funds could still stop flowing into the district and they would then need to levy taxes in the early school year. To ensure payroll at the end of February, they would need to borrow funds in order to finish out the school year, the district will require about $84 million through a line of credit or tax anticipation warrants.

The second possible scenario is getting stuck with another budget with only one categorical payment. Since the state will not pay for four categorical payments, the Board of Education would have to budget one within that single payment. This would mean that the district’s revenue would be reduced by an estimated $27 million and they would also have to levy taxes in the fall. Services like activity buses, buses to athletic events, the closing of swimming pools, reduce staff, eliminating all equipment spending, and cutting the school budget by at least 50%. This could include a reduction of non-union personnel and placing a hiring freeze into effect in order to save an estimated $1 million.

During their Board of Education meeting on June 19, they proposed their five-year plan at the Educational Services Center, located in Elgin, IL. In the proposal, they included the expenses for all counts of running the schools.

With transportation, they have 468 vehicles that need to be maintained, and buses make 350 of that total. The cost to keep up with maintenance is about $4 million a year. As far as the 1,952 classrooms within U-46, the average age of the school furnishings pass 25 years, all would need to be replaced within the next 20 years.

27 out of 68 buildings are older than 50 years and many are costing more in energy to run because of the lack of funding to restore the buildings. They would also need an additional $984,000 for equipment and vehicles, $1.7 million for classroom and office furnishings, about $25 million to go into infrastructure, and $3,053,000 for buses.

If the current budgets that passed can’t allocate an efficient amount to the IL school districts, they may be forced to use any of their district’s reserves and would have to deplete it entirely in order to remain open for the 2017-2018 school year.

The U-46 Board of Education predict that at that point, they will run a deficit next year as they have this year, the amount is approximated to be around $15 million.

“As we learned this year, a stop-gap budget for K-12 is meaningless when the state has no resources to pay schools,” Sanders concluded on the U-46 website.

The next Board of Education meeting for U-46 will be held on July 24, 2017. As of today, education funding is still tabled for future consideration. It remains possible that the schools in IL will still suffer catastrophic consequences for the actions that have taken place in Springfield even with a new state budget.

As the budget enfolds, this story will be updated.

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