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School budgets getting squeezed by state's crisis

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By Dave Bell

Though the State of Illinois’ fiscal crisis has impacted nearly every citizen, business and organization operating in the state, it has come home to roost visibly this time of year for Illinois school districts.
All across the state, school boards and administrators are launching into a new school year with absolutely no idea of how they’re going to keep their schools operating.
They can’t. They have no information from the source of the lion’s share of their revenues – the state. And it doesn’t look like they’re going to get word anytime soon.
It’s a sad, irresponsible and outrageous way to run a state government.
For instance, at Tuesday’s meeting of the Vandalia Board of Education, board members received a copy of Superintendent Rich Well’s budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. That budget – at this time – shows a deficit of more than $600,000…just because it’s not known what revenues the state can be counted on to provide.
Last year, the state only made one of four payments to help fund the transportation expenses incurred by the districts. And funds were slashed for the Pre-K program – causing our district to drop it for the coming school year. In total, the state owes the Vandalia district about $700,000.
Just think what some districts are facing that don’t have the luxury of a surplus like the Vandalia district has.
And the schools aren’t the only victims of the state’s fiscal irresponsibility. Nursing homes, health care providers, sheltered workshops (like FAYCO) and numerous other categories also are feeling the pinch because the state isn’t paying its bills.
It’s time we began putting serious pressure on our legislative representatives to take measures to clean up the mess and get the state back on sound fiscal footing. The state’s credit rating is in the toilet, and the rising taxes and fees are making Illinois an increasingly unattractive place to do business.
For the sake of our kids’ education – and for the economic future they will inherit – we need to be about the task of fixing the state’s fiscal disaster.
If our current elected officials can’t get the job done, give them a grade of F, send them home, and find others who have the will and the creativity to fix the mess. Our superintendents need numbers to put in their budgets.
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