November 1, 2017

Illinois schools look to be shortchanged again by state

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

Illinois schools are once again trying to fill a hole in their budgets to cover money that's not coming from Springfield.

The latest source of money that is not going to schools comes from the decades-old corporate personal property replacement tax. Illinois' Department of Revenue says there will be $300 million less for schools in the state this year.

Terry Horstman, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Revenue, said part of the shortfall is because the state overpaid schools for two years.

"The department estimated that local taxing districts had been overpaid about $168 million," Horstman said.

Horstman added that the state is not going to ask for the money back. Instead, new PPRT dollars will be spent on other pieces of state government.

Mike Jacoby, the head of Illinois' Association of School Business Officials, said that's a problem.

"This started in 2011. The first time [lawmakers] broke open this bank, so to speak, was when they needed money for regional superintendents of schools," Jacoby said. "That was about $11 million. Now we're up to $287 million from this fund that is actually paying for other things."

The Department of Revenue says most schools will lose some money. Jacoby said some schools particularly those in what used to be manufacturing towns could lose a lot.

"Districts along the Mississippi River that had large steel and manufacturing districts [in the 1970s] are going to be hurt pretty significantly," Jacoby said. "Some districts, like Granite City, their PPRT resources are greater than their entire state funding."

Jacoby said it is particularly stinging for Illinois schools to have to be shortchanged once again because state lawmakers spent much of this summer on education funding reform.

"On the one end there is the excitement about new resources coming in through the funding model," Jacoby said. "But if on the back end you're losing [PPRT money] and not actually getting equal new distribution, you're in a negative position."