As lawmakers prepare to return to Springfield to address the budget impasse, officials in Belleville District 118 have been calculating how long its 11 schools could operate next year without state funding.
Gov. Bruce Rauner asked lawmakers to return to the Capitol from June 21-30 for a special session. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Boike said during the school board meeting Tuesday night that District 118 could possibly get through September without money from the state based on the revenue it currently has.
“Getting through that last half of September could be a challenge,” Boike told board members.
Superintendent Matt Klosterman said district officials would start working on “what-if plans” if lawmakers don’t reach a budget agreement during the special session.
“We’re going to need to be talking about our approach come August, when all of our families expect school to be operating and anticipate that their children will come back for a full year,” he said.
Gov. Rauner addressed the state Tuesday, asking the Democrat-controlled Legislature to back a plan introduced by Republicans last week.
“It is truly balanced,” he said. “It funds schools, higher education and human services. It provides a real path to property tax reduction.”
The proposal includes a four-year property tax freeze, four-year income tax increase and term limits.
Democrats dismissed Rauner’s speech as campaigning. They say he hasn’t shown unity in his tenure.
Rauner has been deadlocked with legislative Democrats since taking office in 2015.
We’re going to need to be talking about our approach come August, when all of our families expect school to be operating and anticipate that their children will come back for a full year.
Matt Klosterman, Belleville District 118 superintendent
As a result of the budget crisis, District 118 is still waiting on $3.2 million in mandated reimbursements from the state for services the district is required to provide, including transportation and special education. Klosterman said the district has used reserves to compensate.
Board members voted Tuesday to transfer $1.3 million in working cash to its transportation fund, something Boike said is not unusual for the district. He said working cash transfers have helped address deficits in the transportation fund for about eight of the last 10 years.
Boike said District 118 has made a few changes this year that will “have a positive impact” on the budget next year.
In April, the district decided it would stop paying a private company to transport students to and from school and instead partner with Belleville District 201, which will begin offering the service in-house next school year. District 118 expects its savings will be about $420,000 per year.
“The deficit coming into this year was almost $1 million in transportation,” Boike said. “Fortunately, we’re moving forward with the new mode of transportation for students, funded with our partners in 201. Hopefully, that deficit will not grow to that extent for a long, long time.”
District 201 is also partnering with District 118 for food service in Belleville schools next year. The districts will share the administrative costs for food service and purchase the supplies together.
On Tuesday night, the board also hired five new teachers who will begin their first year teaching in District 118 on Aug. 14, including:
▪ Jordan Dunn as a fourth-grade teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary;
▪ Donyelle Demarse as a special education teacher at Union Elementary;
▪ Lauren Blick as an eighth-grade multisubject teacher at West Junior High;
▪ Tracey Haynes as a home economics teacher at West Junior High and Central Junior High; and
▪ Jenny Mondt as a music teacher at West Junior High and Central Junior High.
The district added Blick’s position because of increased enrollment at West Junior High, according to Klosterman. He said the rest of the new hires are filling positions vacated by retirements.
The Belleville District 118 School Board meets next at 7:30 p.m. July 18 at 105 West A St. in Belleville.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.