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At the Sept. 8 District 65 Finance Committee meeting, Superintendent Paul Goren gave an overview of legislation pending in Springfield that might impact the District’s budget and finances. He stressed there is “uncertainty” at the State level. “The level of uncertainty is mindboggling, even in a political process,” he said.
He mentioned three distinct areas:
First, there are various bills proposing to freeze property taxes, which account for 76% of the District’s operating revenues. If property taxes were frozen, “We’ll have a hit to our budget somewhere between $3 million and $4 million” starting in 2018-19, he said.
Second, he said there was a potential for reforming the way the State funds education, such as Senate Bill 16 (in 2014) and Senate Bill 1 (in 2015). Under those bills, the District would lose about $6 million in State funding each year.
Third, there is a potential that the State could shift a portion of the cost to fund teacher pensions to school districts. If that were done, Dr. Goren said the District may have to pay the State $2 million a year, which would be phased in over four years.
He said the potential legislation “leaves us with a whole heap of budget and financial uncertainty. … We want to act in a responsible way to serve the communities we serve, and it’s very difficult to do that given the state of the State.”
Board member Richard Rykhus said he thought the District should defer moving ahead with an operating referendum at this time. He said, “My view right now is with all of the unknowns, we’re not sure what we would ask for in terms of operations, and I think until we have some degree of clarity on at least some significant variables, I’m not sure that we can move forward at this point.
Five other Board members agreed. Omar Brown added, “I would want us to keep it in the forefront that we keep thinking about when we have to do one, when the timing is right.”