SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ regional superintendents are expecting to be paid by the end of the fall veto session, but how the men and women who oversee schools across the state will be paid remains unknown.

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ regional superintendents are expecting to be paid by the end of the fall veto session, but how the men and women who oversee schools across the state will be paid remains unknown.

Gov. Pat Quinn in late June vetoed $11 million from the state budget that was supposed to pay the 44 regional superintendents of schools. So, the superintendents have gove without paychecks since June 30.

“A lot of regional superintendents are struggling,” said Hancock/McDonough County Regional Superintendent of Schools John Meixner. “I have worked out an agreement with my local county to form some type of a bridge loan, using the discretionary enterprise funds from our office … so that we can at least make our mortgage payments, our car payments, put food on the table.”

Meixner said his arrangement is designed to get him through the fall veto session, which begins Oct. 25.

Going into the veto session, lawmakers have two options to pay the regional superintendents.

The General Assembly can override Quinn’s veto and restore the $11 million to the budget. Or lawmakers can pay the regional superintendents with money from the Personal Property Tax Replacement fund.

PPRT dollars come from taxes on corporations, trusts and public utilities. The state collects the taxes and then distributes that money to local governments to replace the property taxes local government used to collect from the entities.

But House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, controls the original legislation containing the regional superintendents’ pay, and only he can call for an override.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for Madigan, said “there has not been a final decision made” about whether to push for an override or introduce new legislation that would pay regional superintendents from local tax money.

Kelly Kraft, budget spokeswoman for the governor, said the latter option is Quinn’s choice.

“We feel the regional superintendents, which are locally elected, should be funded in the same manner (as other local elected officials) to relieve pressure from the state’s general revenue fund,” said Kraft.

Rock Island County Regional Superintendent of School Tammy Muerhoff said she doesn’t care how she is paid, as long she is paid soon.

“This has created a hardship for everyone,” said Muerhoff, one of a handful of new regional superintendents whose first day on the job was a day after their last paycheck.

“It’s hard to describe the feelings that you have,” Muerhoff added. “Knowing that you are doing great work, you’re providing a service, but you’re not being compensated for it.”

Muerhoff also said she expects to start getting a paycheck after veto session.

State Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, said all of the regional superintendents need to pay attention to what Madigan says.

“The only person that can file for a veto override is the speaker,” Eddy said Tuesday. “And it’s my understanding that he’s going to try the governor’s plan first.”

Eddy is quick to say that finding support to pay regional superintendents with PPRT money could be difficult.

Adams/Pike County Regional Superintendent of Schools Debbie Niederhauser said the governor is going to have to sell his idea to more than just lawmakers.

Using PPRT dollars “takes money away from our schools districts, our county boards, our park districts, and that’s not what we’re about,” said Niederhauser.

Jackson/Perry County Regional Superintendent of Schools Donna Boros said she and the other regional superintendents can only wait and watch.

“At this point, I think all options are open,” Boros said. “We need to be paid, so that we’re not distracted from our focus of helping kids.”

Lawmakers convene from Oct. 25-Oct. 27 and again from Nov. 8-Nov. 10.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories in which Illinois Statehouse News will examine issues facing lawmakers during the two-week veto session.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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