The Register-Mail

Schools adjust budgets for state’s shortcomings

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GALESBURG — Knox County schools are still owed more $3 million in state aid, painting a dismal picture for next year’s funding as the fiscal year winds down.
Districts are waiting on state payments in free lunch and breakfast programs, driver education, reading improvement grants and transportation.

But it is special education and early childhood programs that are waiting on most of the money. Galesburg District 205 is awaiting more than $780,000 in special education-related funding, and more than $570,000 for early childhood aid, according to the Illinois State Board of Education’s Financial Reimbursement Information System.

District superintendents said they’re wary of next year’s payment schedule, especially since the state board of education agreed to slash more than $280 million from its 2011 budget.

For ROWVA, that means the district’s budget next year will be reduced between $550,000 and $700,000, superintendent Lloyd Little said.

“On a $6 million budget, that’s almost 10 percent of your budget decreased,” Little said. “That’s significant.”
ROWVA has attempted to weather the “financial upheaval from the state” by closing an elementary school, reducing staff and consolidating classrooms, Little said.

But with more than $400,000 expected from the state for this fiscal year, which ends Wednesday, he said he’s not sure what will happen next year.

“If they’re not paying their money on time this year, how are they going to pay us next year?” Little said.

Knoxville superintendent Larry Carlton said he received an e-mail from the state board that said they would attempt to have all payments caught up by the end of the fiscal year.
“But that’s not going to happen,” he said. The district is still owed more than $420,000, according to the FRIS database.

Carlton said he’s created a tentative budget for next year, though he will not be Knoxville’s superintendent. He created the budget based on having about $600,000 less from the state he said.

“We’re just thankful we’re not having to borrow money,” Carlton added.

Galesburg is waiting on more than $2 million from the state, said Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Guy Cahill.

District administration in February presented Operation Program/Job Save FY2011 Budget Re-Alignment Plan to the school board, which recommended ways to raise revenue and cut costs in efforts to shrink an anticipated $3.4 million difference in anticipated state funding. Some of the recommended measures include cutting supply and paper budgets and increasing student textbook fees.

Those types of cuts are necessary to continue funding mandated programs, like the Knox-Warren Special Education District, director Susan Crawford said.

The state’s late special education payments take a toll on the entire district, not just special education programs, she said.

“It certainly impacts all children because they’re under mandates to provide services,” she said. “If we’re not receiving timely reimbursements, then it’s going to take away from all the other kids.”

Crawford said she’s asked her staff to cut back on classroom supply use and make other changes to save money.

“We’re asking people to work harder with less,” she said.

State rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, said he feels the state has “let down, or not done adequately,” in making its payments to schools.

“The state has a constitutional responsibility to fund education,” he said. “I don’t feel the state has lived up to that. The problem is that the state hasn’t even lived up to what it said it would do this year.”