Evanston/Skokie District 65 Schools Superintendent Paul Goren gave a preview Monday night of the position he is expected to take at tonight’s forum on school financing sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Biss.
The controversial Senate Bill 16, which Biss voted for but has not yet been considered in the House, is designed to help the state crawl out of its fiscal hole by shifting more of the funding of schools to higher-income districts.
Goren takes the position that the focus is in the wrong place, and he proposes that the Illinois General Assembly shift its focus to those districts, such as Evanston, that rely upon state funding to help serve the needs of economically-disadvantaged students, as well as a large number of those with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.
With some 40 percent of the district’s families at or below the poverty line and its large number of kids with special needs, District 65 stands to lose upwards of $7 million in state funds, Goren said, which is more than some of the more affluent districts on the North Shore.
He made his remarks at the regular monthly meeting of the district’s Finance Committee, which is considering possible budget cuts that might be required if revenues fall below projections. The Biss forum on school funding will take place tonight, beginning at 7 p.m. at the district headquarters, 1500 McDaniel Ave.
As it stands now, the district’s $106 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 but has not yet been finally approved by the district board, projects a surplus of $136,000, despite significant uncertainties that remain with state funding.
The district’s financial staff also projects a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, but subsequent budgets, beginning with the 2016-2017 fiscal year, are projected to be in deficit unless new revenue sources are found or significant expenditure cuts are made.
Because the property tax levy is limited to growth in the consumer price index, the administration has been using a 2.5 percent annual increase in its projections, based on the experience of prior years.
Because inflation has been so low due to the recent recession, however, the CPI increase has been such that a 2 percent expectation is now being factored in when making projections.
Also, tax income from new property in the district has “dropped drastically,” according to CFO Mary Brown, and that has contributed to the problem.
Goren said his staff has been engaging in “what-if” exercises to present options to the board if the financial prospects worsen.
While acknowledging that the state has a “broken financial situation,” Goren insists that the solution be focused on serving students that have the greatest needs.