Unit 5 Official: 'Something Has To Happen' on School Funding | WGLT

Unit 5 Official: 'Something Has To Happen' on School Funding

Aug 24, 2017

The business manager for Unit 5 said Wednesday he has never faced more uncertainty concerning school funding during his time with the district.

Marty Hickman said Unit 5 is waiting for more than $400,000 from the state for the school year. Without it, Hickman said Unit 5 would face closure around the holiday season.

"So many districts are dependent on those funds, so the longer this goes on more districts will be in trouble," said Hickman. "It's just incentive that something has to happen."

Districts like Unit 5 are again playing the waiting game, this time because of a standoff in Springfield over a revised version of the state's 20-year-old school funding formula. The budget state legislators approved last month over Gov. Bruce Rauner's objections requires a new formula for schools to get state money this academic year.

Rauner, a Republican, rejected the proposal majority Democrats sent him. The Senate overrode Rauner's veto, and negotiations continue ahead of a possible override vote in the House.

Meanwhile, Hickman said the school board was notified Friday that district will lose 24 percent of its Corporate Replacement Property Tax Fund of nearly $500,000. The district's property tax base (real estate EAV) is anticipated to increase by 1 percent for levy year 2017.

School districts still don't know not only when general state aid is coming but also how much transportation help the state will send. Hickman said budget provisions do not match what lawmakers have said about the budget.

"In the appropriations of the state budget, the funding for special education transportation appears to have been cut by $64.6 million. So we're trying to understand how the payments are going to be the same with less funds," Hickman said.

Hickman said the state committed to provide 93 percent of special education funding across the state this school year, but doesn't understand how that's possible with a $64 million cut. Regular school transportation funding increased slightly by about $57 million statewide.

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