According to Illinois' State Superintendent, more than 60% of public school districts are deficit spending. The Rockford area is included in that figure. One district will look to taxpayers for help come fall.
In Stillman Valley, district leaders hope community members realize budget issues are a state-wide problem.
"It's not just our area. It wasn't mismanagement of money. There's a big issue with how school districts are funded." -says Meridian CUSD #223 Assistant Superintendent P.J. Caposey.
Administrators blame a lack of state money for shortfalls like the $1 million deficit Meridian currently faces.
"What we know is that we're funded at 89% of what we're supposed to be funded at, most people are telling you that you'll probably be funded anywhere from 83%-85% next year which is another $200-$300,000 in revenue that we'll be missing." -Caposey explains.
The school board has already made close to $1 million in cuts, but projections still show an average $600,000 deficit each year over the next four years. To balance the budget, restore what was cut and continue improving, the district is reaching out for taxpayers' help. On the November ballot, voters will see a seven-year term referendum increasing the property tax rate by $0.70. If approved, this will bring the district more than $1 million in tax revenue.
To figure out how it will affect your property taxes, district administrators say if you have a $100,000 home, expect a roughly $230 increase on your bill. They'll be adding to their website, to help you understand the referendum's impact.
"We'll try to create a calculator so put in the value of your home, do you live in your home, are you a senior citizen? Hit a button, we'll tell you what your tax increase will be." -Caposey says.
A couple other things approved at Thursday night's meeting will take effect next school year. One is new school registration fees. Those all are increasing by $50. Kindergarten registration fees will be $110, grades 1 through 8 will be $115 and $130 at the high school. Also, all schools will start and end at the same time next year, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
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