Illinois finally has a budget. For six months at least, time enough to get through the November election.
After going a year without a budget, the state legislature finally reached an agreement with Gov. Bruce Rauner and approved a host of measures amounting to a budget on June 30, the last day of the fiscal year.
The budget fully funds state aid to school districts for the 2016-17 school year and funds road projects for the entire year. The parts of the state budget that have dedicated revenue sources are funded for a full year, while the parts of budget that are funded by general state revenue, such as payments to social service providers, are only funded for six months.
The deal fully funds state aid to local school districts for the first time in seven years and puts an additional $331 million in the state aid pot. An additional $250 million will go to school districts, including the Chicago Public Schools, which has large numbers of low-income
But, Riverside-Brookfield High School appears to be a major winner with state aid to District 208 projected to increase by 31.6 percent, or about $323,000, going from about $1,019,298 last year to $1.34 million this year, according to information the Landmark received from the Illinois State Board of Education.
Other local school districts will also get more money from the state next year. Brookfield-LaGrange Park Elementary School District 95 is expected to get a 28-percent increase in state aid, while Komarek School District 94 and Lyons-Brookfield District 103 are both projected to receive 14-percent increases in general state aid.
Riverside Elementary School District 96 is in line for a 9-percent increase, while LaGrange-Brookfield District 102 will get just a 2-percent increase. Lyons Township High School District 204 will get a 6-percent increase.
State Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) said that he couldn’t confirm those numbers, but said that increased spending on education was one of the best parts of the budget deal.
“One of the appealing aspects of this agreement is the shared commitment by the governor’s office and four caucuses to increase education funding,” Zalewski said. “Certainly CPS is going reap some of the reward of that, but it looks as if some local districts are going to reap some the rewards too.”
The compromise agreement came after a yearlong standoff between Rauner and the Democrat-controlled legislature led by longtime House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
Rauner wanted major changes, what he calls his “turnaround agenda,” in collective bargaining rights, workman’s compensation rules and a property tax freeze before he would support a tax increase.
In the compromise, none of the issues Rauner focused on were addressed. No tax increase was passed, but the assembly did pass legislation allowing the Chicago Board of Education to increase property taxes in Chicago to pay for pensions of Chicago Public School teachers.
“It was a good first step toward rebuilding some of the trust that I think has deteriorated over the last 18 months between the executive and legislative branches,” said Zalewski. “I commend the speaker for leading negotiations to resolution. I commend the governor for setting aside some of the demands he made previously in an effort to sort of offer the relief that was needed to get this done. I thought it was a positive solution for everybody.”
Zalewski said that Rauner realized that he couldn’t get his agenda passed right now and decided to change course for now.
“I think that ultimately he realized that it wasn’t in anyone’s best interests to continue down this path,” Zalewski said.
In six months the legislature and governor’s fight may continue and tough choices will have to made.
“We’re going to go back after the election and take another round of difficult votes on some combination of spending cuts, revenue increases, or both,” said State Sen. Harmon (D-Oak Park). “I don’t think we should break our arms patting ourselves on the back. All that we did was to do our jobs. We did them in a difficult environment, and in the end it was the legislative diligence pushing to get a budget done that I think forced the compromise.”
This story has been changed to correct the percentage increase Riverside-Brookfield HigH School District 208 will see in state general aid in 2016-17. The new information is based on figures provided by the Illinois State Board of Education.