Illinois budget may impact schools

By Amy Kreeger

DeKALB | Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn proposed a slight increase in education spending Wednesday but wants to save state money by pushing school consolidation and eliminating regional education offices — two ideas that have been soundly rejected over the years.

He also proposed cutting a $13 million subsidy to 45 regional offices of education, which conduct safety checks, training and run special schools, and reducing the amount the state pays to bus students to the classroom by $95 million.

Newly-inaugurated state senator Christine Johnson said she was disappointed to hear that Quinn’s budget proposal would increase by $1.7 billion with borrowed money.

“It puts our state spending at an all-time high,” Johnson said, adding later that Quinn’s budget proposal would be “very detrimental to our state.”

Having only received the proposal late Tuesday, Johnson said her and her Republican colleagues still have to go over Quinn’s proposal completely.

“We’re just at the beginning of many serious discussions about the budget,” Johnson said.

Jim Briscoe, DeKalb School District 428 superintendent, said that out of the estimated $60 million budget they get per year, about $10 million of that comes from the state.

“The hardest part is not knowing how much we get from the state,” Briscoe said. “Any fluctuation could have a huge impact on the entire district.”

Briscoe said the district sometimes doesn’t find out how much money it is getting from the state until May or June. He said the district could face a $1.3 million deficit for this upcoming year.

“Last year, they reduced our transportation reimbursement categorical by 40 percent, and we lost $700,000 right before school started,” Briscoe said. “If they continue to decrease our categoricals, the effects will be devastating.”

Mike Verbic, District 428 School Board president, said depending on the amount of state funding the district gets, it could be looking at a $200,000 surplus.

Verbic said the board approved the initial Fiscal Year 2011-12 budget plan during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Briscoe said that this upcoming year’s budget is going to depend on two things: whether the state decides to decrease or increase categorical spending, which is the amount of money the district gets from the state for specific program, and how much general state aid it gets.

“We are currently planning for the 2011-12 budget and have no idea what the state is going to do,” Briscoe said. “So as of right now we are just waiting on the state government to tell us how much we’re going to get. Public schools are trying to keep budgets stable but the state government is making it impossible to plan.”

According to their website, Sycamore School District 427 received over $6 million from the state in grant money for the 2009-10 school year.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.