O'Fallon Progress

Superintendents say funding for schools is ‘far from adequate’

O’Fallon School Districts 90 and 203, and Central School District 104, are able to operate this fall, despite not having a set Illinois budget in place, because of makeshift legislative efforts this past summer.

However, local superintendents say the funding is inadequate and budget cuts may be ahead.

“The funding of the statutory foundation level of $6,119 in the General State Aid formula is far from adequate to support education for 2016-2017,” said O’Fallon High School District 203 Superintendent Darcy Benway.

“This foundation level was implemented for the 2008-2009 school year (payable in 2009-2010),” Benway said. “The demands placed on schools as well as the costs to meet those demands have increased significantly during the last seven years, yet the state has failed to increase the $6,119 foundation level, and in many years, has in effect lowered that foundation level due to proration.”

Benway said state lawmakers have significantly impacted planning.

“The actions, or lack of actions, by the General Assembly makes current budgetary planning for schools difficult, and long-term budgetary planning for schools near impossible,” she said. “OTHS continues to make budgetary cuts in an effort to balance its budget.”

Central District 104 hasn’t made many budget cuts in previous years, according to Superintendent John Bute.

“However, we do expect to make some at the conclusion of this school year,” he said.

All areas of the district’s operation will be considered for cuts. “No one specific area has been identified for budget reductions,” he said.

On June 30, lawmakers approved a full fiscal year 2017 budget for elementary and secondary education, including a $361 million increase over FY2016 levels.

School fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30.

But getting there had been a struggle.

By the scheduled adjournment at the end of May, the General Assembly had failed to reach a K-12 schools budget agreement. So, legislative leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner started meeting in June, under increased pressure to make sure schools would open in the fall.

The budget appropriations provided funding for school districts that fully covered the statutory foundation level of $6,119 per pupil. Mandated categorical grants were funded at FY2016 levels, according to Carrie Hruby, superintendent of O’Fallon School District 90.

For the rest of the state government, the General Assembly approved a stopgap six-month budget. The appropriations bill included $1 billion for higher education for costs for FY2016 and for the first half of FY 2017.

“The plan was for the working groups of legislators to continue meeting and have a full-year budget ready for a vote during the veto session scheduled for Nov. 15-17 and Nov. 29-Dec.1,” Hruby said.

This is after the November election.

“In recent years, the General Assembly has not passed timely budgets, has not provided adequate funding, and has continued to pass bills that include unfunded mandates on schools,” Benway said.

The District 90, 203 and 104 School Boards adopted 2016-2017 fiscal year budgets in September, following public hearings.

Shiloh District 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer had not responded by press time.