Legislation has Unit 4 worried about state money

Legislation has Unit 4 worried about state money

CHAMPAIGN — A proposed bill that could alter the way state funds are allocated to public school districts has Unit 4 administrators on edge.

In a presentation to the school board Monday night, district attorney Tom Lockman outlined how Senate Bill 1 would change the way Champaign schools receive money from the state. The legislation would not alter how much money Unit 4 receives each year, but rather how it is funded, which Lockman said should be a concern.

"There will be winners and there will be losers. We will definitely be losers," he said.

Under the SB 1 formula, which is sponsored by state Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), General State Aid would be called Primary State Aid, and money from the general fund would be disbursed based on how much revenue a district receives from local property taxes. Because local tax dollars account for over 70 percent of Champaign's total revenue, the district would see a dramatic drop in the amount of general aid it receives from the state if the legislation passes.

Last year, Unit 4 received just over $13 million in general state aid. Under the proposed formula, Champaign would receive $1.4 in primary state aid, an almost $12 million decrease.

The legislation provides a cushion: Unit 4 would get a PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law) Grant of just over $3 million and an Adequacy Grant of $8.6 million to make up for the difference. But, the fact that this money has been labeled a grant is the root cause for concern, according to Unit 4 communications director Stephanie Stuart, who says administrators are worried the use of the word "grants," or "soft money," makes it seem like the funds aren't fully guaranteed to the district.

"The grant funding is written into the legislation, so if this bill passes as is, we will come out whole, but we are concerned the grants will get chopped when negotiations take place. It's concerning that this money has been taken out of the formula and put into grants. It might even be different if they didn't call them grants," Lockman said. "But just given the state of the financial picture in Illinois, calling something a grant and expecting it to be fully funded is a difficult proposition to accept."

In comparison with other Champaign County districts like Unit 7, Mahomet-Seymour, Urbana and both Rantoul districts, Champaign is the only district that would have to bear such a significant loss in state aid. In 2014, Unit 7 received a little less than $6 million from the state and under the SB 1 formula, the district would get about $5 million. Mahomet would see a similar decrease of less than $1 million. Rantoul Township High School district, Urbana and Rantoul City schools would see an increase in state aid: Rantoul City would get about $1 million more; RTHS and Urbana would each see an increase of over $200,000.

In comparison with other downstate districts, industrial communities with a weaker property tax base but a high population of students will be the "biggest winners," Lockman said. "Danville will get an additional $3 million, Springfield will see almost $5 million more, Peoria about $6 million more and we would be looking at $12 million less."

Stuart said the district's concern is for the students.

"The kids we serve have the same needs as these other districts. The services are what we are concerned about, and what the community should be concerned about, if we aren't fully funded," she said. "We don't have the mechanisms in place to immediately make that up. We can't just lobby for more taxes locally and we don't want to put more burden on our local tax base."

District administrators have been in communication with local legislators and Manar about the impact the proposed formula could have on Unit 4. While the legislation is currently "filed and sitting," Lockman said he will continue to monitor the bill closely.

"The last action was a committee reading in May. It hasn't gone too far, but it's something that's on enough different people's radars that I think something will happen during this General Assembly," Lockman said.

New faces

At Monday night's board meeting, Unit 4 welcomed three new faces to the district's leadership team:

— Mac Dressman, a Central High School senior, 2015-16 school board student ambassador.

— Inyoung "Summer" Choi, a Centennial High School senior, 2015-16 school board student ambassador.

— Richard McQueen was approved as the district's new assistant director of facilities.

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Bulldogmojo wrote on September 15, 2015 at 11:09 am


Speaking of state funds I wonder why NG is not covering the story about Rauner threatening to stop health insurance payments to medical providers for ALL state employees and retirees?


Maybe I missed the link to the NG story about it UGH

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 15, 2015 at 4:09 pm

It has already happened with the dental insurance.  Providers want the bill paid by the retiree, and they will reimburse what the insurance pays when ever if ever the insurance pays. 

Your right about the health insurance.  It is to stop in the near future.  The providers will do the same in that situation also.  If you have a chronic illness, surgery, or need meds for life continuation; your out of luck unless you have savings to cover it.

Yeah, Rauner can show up on his twenty mile an hour Harley wearing pressed Carhartts to speak to the wealthy.  However, he will not show up where there are public employees and retirees.  There maybe tacks on the road along with jeers, and boos.

catsrule wrote on September 15, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Illinois relies too heavily on property taxes to support education.  A constitutinal ammendment changing the flat income tax method to a progressive income tax method could raise more funds for education funding.