State’s budget impasse has Belleville District 118 pondering start date

The state of Illinois’ budget impasse has Superintendent Matt Klosterman on edge.

Not having a state budget is “kind of hanging over our heads,” he said at the monthly board meeting of Belleville District 118 on Tuesday night. “We need to talk about the direction, for legal ramifications” that the district might take.

Klosterman suggested the board be aware of two options: delaying the start of school, or starting school on time and spending the cash reserves.

Whatever the board decides, President Joe Robertson urged administrators to let parents know soon of what could happen.

“We don’t want to wait ’til August to communicate with our families about what we want to do,” Klosterman said earlier. “We probably need to start some of that communication as early as next month.”

After Robertson’s question, Klosterman said administrators are drafting a letter now for parents.

Assistant superintendent Ryan Boike said using cash reserves, school could start on time but “the feeling is we could get to maybe November.”

The challenge with that, administrators said, is there would be no reserves left when the state did pick up the budget and start paying schools.

Not having a state budget means school districts cannot get state payments for categoricals, which include transportation and meals. It also means funds from the federal government that are passed along as flow-through funds for special education cannot be administered.

Klosterman said the legal ramifications the district must consider for delaying school include contracts the district has with various groups, including teachers.

Public hearing

The board went into a public hearing after the personnel committee and finance committee made their presentations for an explanation to the proposed amended 2015-2016 budget.

“Would anyone like to address the board?” a couple of the board members laughed, as a reporter was the sole attendee of the meeting at that point. “Do you even live in this district?” Gary Lawrence asked.

Boike said the amended budget is part of an annual process.

“And because we live in the State of Illinois, and sometimes they don’t have a budget at all, it makes it challenging,” Boike said.

Boike said the district was in financially “a little better shape” than the same time last year.

“If the state paid all, we’re very close to balanced,” he said. Boike said the total operating fund balance is about $5.5 million; and the district had “basically banked on a little revenue we’re not gong to get.”

Student services had not been affected, Klosterman said.

“We have not eliminated a single program for any of our students.”

The board unanimously approved the amended budget.

Amended resolution

In April, the board voted to authorize $14.5 million in debt certificates. Boike and Klosterman asked the board for a change to make those debt certificates taxable, rather than non-taxable.

“Certain buyers prefer taxable type of debt certificate,” Boike said after the meeting. He and Klosterman said the wording had little to no impact on the district.

The board unanimously approved the amended resolution.

Contracts and hires

The board voted to approve contracts with Boike and assistant superintendent Tracy Gray, among others.

The board also hired:

▪  Briana Schaefer, fourth grade, Katie Donner, third grade, and Reynaldo Mendoza, sixth grade, at Abraham Lincoln Elementary

▪  Erin Bauman, fourth grade, Meghan Huff, third grade, and Kelly Martini, second grade, at Union Elementary

▪  Elizabeth Horn, speech and language at Franklin and Washington

▪  Amy Vicik, third grade at Jefferson.

PARCC test

Gray, assistant superintendent for curriculum, said that the window for PARCC testing in the coming school year would likely fall just before the spring break.

“Kind of nice to test, and then enjoy the break,” she said, adding that makeups to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers would be made after the break.