The Unit 5 Board of Education is preparing for the worst as the budget impasse in Springfield continues. The state has promised the unit at least $5 million in grants for transportation and special education, but there’s no guarantee those grants will come.
Dr. Mark Daniel, Unit 5 Superintendent, said the lack of funding for social services and higher education leaves him less optimistic that the unit will receive the money.
“Before, I’d say that’s maybe [a] 10 percent chance, but I’m now more towards, I would say, that’s greater than 50 percent,” he said.
The unit’s planning includes figuring out what to do if they begin running on a deficit as a result of the lack of state funding. The unit has reserves and other methods they could use to keep the unit afloat, but Daniel said the unit will eventually run out of money if nothing is done at the state level.
“We could survive another year, maybe a year and a half, but, after that, we’re at that point of no return,” he said.
Unit 5 Business Manager Marty Hickman, who also serves as Treasurer, said it’s difficult to create a budget without knowing what the state will do.
“How do we make budget decisions that will impact our kids, it will impact education, it will impact our staff, it’ll impact our parents, it’ll impact everyone in the community, without knowing for sure what’s going to happen?” he said.
The Springfield budget impasse isn’t the only reason the unit is looking at other funding options and trying to cut costs. Hickman said receiving state funding has been a long-term problem.
“I want a positive scenario from Springfield, certainly, but some sort of certainty would be good so that we could make the best plans for our kids,” he said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t had that for years.”
The unit has seen delays in state payments in the past.
Daniel is asking parents, staff and community members to contact their legislators about public education funding by saying “public education must be fully funded.”
Papers with contact information for legislators were available at the meeting. Daniel said talking to state senators and state representatives can only help.
“We, as educators, have knocked on that door. We continue to knock on that door, and we will continue to knock on the door,” he said. “But we need our parents, now, to knock on that door as well.”