Highland News Leader

No state budget would mean no school in Highland after Christmas

Christmas break would be extended indefinitely in the Highland School District if state legislators cannot come up with a budget before then.

Highland Superintendent Mike Sutton said the district could afford a half-year of classes without any state money, but it would be busted after that.

“We anticipate we could keep the doors open for the first semester — December-ish,” Sutton said.

Reserves and anticipated local property tax money would be enough for the district to meet payroll until then, Sutton said.

About 40 percent of the district’s education fund, the account from which salaries are paid, comes from the state.

“You just can’t make up 40 percent of your revenue. You just can’t,” Sutton said.

Insurance would not be an issue, since the district pays its premium in one lump sum before the start of the academic year.

Sutton said the district would have to hold some money back to pay utilities — gas, water and electric, which run about $30,000 per month.

About 56 percent of the district’s transportation dollars come from the state.

Board member Robert Miller said he had heard of districts in other states in similar situations saving money by just not running any buses.

However, Sutton said state law requires the district to provide transportation. Plus, the idea could ultimately hurt the district’s bottom line in the long run. Schools receive general state aid — when the state actually pays it — based on average daily attendance. If the district were to not provide busing, attendance would suffer, and with it, state aid money.

“We’re caught in a Catch-22 any way you look at it,” Sutton said.

June 30 is the end of the fiscal year and the deadline for a new budget. Lawmakers were back in Springfield on Tuesday, the seventh consecutive day of special session called by Gov. Bruce Rauner in an attempt to get a last-minute deal worked out. They met for only about 11 minutes combined between the Senate and House.