Already financially strapped because of lower tax revenues and budget reductions, suburban schools this school year are grappling with new state funding cuts aimed directly at bus transportation.
The state budget last summer cut more than $146 million from the regular transportation budget line item for elementary and secondary education, resulting in a reduction of more than 40 percent from last year, according to the Illinois Association of School Boards.
On top of that, most districts still are waiting to receive state transportation funds from last year, leaving some districts across the state scrambling to keep their transportation budgets afloat. […]
Complicating matters is a state law that, with few exceptions, requires school districts to provide bus service to children living 11/2 miles or more from school. Transportation also is required for those students who live within 11/2 miles but whose route has been deemed a hazard to walk.
Like I’ve been saying for months, the state is one of the greatest drags on Illinois’ economy.
* And people just don’t seem to understand why this is so. Here’s a recent letter to the editor in the Lake County News Sun…
Where is all the money from the Illinois Lottery going? I thought this was going the schools? So why are they so broke?
Yeah. The Lottery brings in [said in Karl Sagan’s voice] billions and billions of dollars. Right. Everything is supposed to be so easy. It ain’t.
* Things are just bad all over...
[East St. Louis] Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. said he plans to give up half of his salary to help save some police officers’ jobs.
Parks said Monday that he will give up $25,000 of the $50,000 salary he is paid as mayor. He said it will be effective Jan. 1 for one year.
Parks is hopeful that other city leaders will follow his lead and give up something to help save the officers’ job.
City officials are considering a plan to lay off 19 police officers, four public works workers and one full- and one part-time telecommuicator. Thirteen firefighters are already laid off, and City Manager Deletra Hudson said they will remain off.
* Aurora is having big trouble as well…
The $340 million budget approved Tuesday attempts to eliminate an $18 million deficit. It cuts city spending by about $7 million while reducing or eliminating other planned projects. It strips out 98 full-time positions cut through retirements, voluntary separations and layoffs.
It eliminates the Office of Special Events, all historic preservation incentives, and most of the money for historic preservation and public art.
And, like most municipalities, it shows increasing amounts of money going toward health insurance and public pensions.
The budget also relies on concessions from all city employees, or further cuts if unions don’t agree to other cuts. All employees have been asked to take a 10 percent salary cut or the equivalent in concessions. Two of the city’s unions have already reached agreements.
* Angst about the future…
The Jonesboro Elementary School Board, meeting Tuesday night at the grade school, heard plenty of comments about a proposed 4.5 percent increase in the tax levy, but ultimately decided unanimously to make no increase at all in the levy.
The move came at the recommendation of Superintendent Gary Hill, who explained that as the equalized assessed valuation of properties in the district increases, more money will be collected even at the same levy rate. […]
Hill said the $350,000 in state aid paid to the district this year came from the state’s use of federal stimulus funds, but questioned where next year’s state aid will come from.
* It ain’t good…
By a vote of 4-3 the Carbondale City Council voted to collect a property tax this coming year for the first time in eight years.
* And pension troubles abound…
In order to meet those [pension] obligations, which its 2011 budget puts at $1.25 million, the McHenry City Council last July raised its sales tax by 50 percent, or from 1 percent to 1.5 percent.
The 2011 obligation is nearly four times greater than the $327,380 the city paid into its public safety pension fund in 2001. […]
Statewide, the cost of police pensions more than doubled over a 10-year period, from $86 million in 1997 to $215 million in 2008, according to the Illinois Municipal League. Firefighter pensions during that time increased by the same percentage, from $70 million to $176 million. […]
“One cause [of the pension crisis] is the downturn in the market, but another equally important thing is all the pension sweeteners approved over many years that increase the cost for municipalities and the state of Illinois, as well,” Cary’s Davis said.
* Things are so bad that Brookfield wants to charge an entrance tax on its town’s storied zoo. The Sun-Times delivers an appropriate response…
In trying to understand why the Village of Brookfield, after decades of peaceful co-existence, wants to stick Brookfield Zoo with a big new tax on admissions, we’re reminded of what Willie Sutton said about why he robbed banks:
“That’s where the money is.”
The Village of Brookfield, like pretty much every suburb and Chicago, is hurting for money and desperate to find ways to increase revenues without hiking property taxes. If you’re the City of Chicago, you resort to half-baked solutions like privatizing parking meters. If you’re the Village of Brookfield, you go after the zoo, slapping a 25-cent amusement tax on every admission ticket, hoping to pull in up to $500,000 a year. […]
Further eroding the village’s argument is the state law, which more than 80 years ago established the zoo on Cook County Forest Preserve District land, to be operated by the non-profit Chicago Zoological Society. That law is widely read in Springfield as requiring that the zoo’s full price of admission be used to run the zoo — and for nothing else. State law also prohibits one government — in this case, the village — from imposing a tax on another government — in this case, the forest preserve district.
* Illinois Human Service Cuts Mean Tough Times For Women: The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability predicts human services programs are most at risk. In a new report titled “Gender Disparities In Human Services” (PDF), the center argues that human service programs simply don’t hold the same appeal as other general fund-supported programs. “Not everyone has direct experience, for instance, with mental health, developmental disability, substance abuse or child abuse concerns. In a political system which allocates scarce public financial resources among competing, legitimate public services, those services with the smaller constituencies are most likely to be cut,” the report says. Indeed, CTBA’s report says that over the last 10 years, the state “has cut its real investment in various human service programs collectively by more than $4.4 billion.” No other “core” programming area has faced such a loss of resources.
* Planned layoffs of deputies spurs outrage downstate
* Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs is dismantled as 29 are laid off
* Soup Kitchens, Food Banks Looking For Help: According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) has seen a 36 percent increase in the number of people seeking assistance since 2006. Between July and October of this year, food pantries throughout the Chicago area fed 1.7 million visitors.
* Judge weighs tossing out atheist’s suit over state grant
* Troy schools add in last cent of tax hike: Troy School Board approved a 2010 tax levy of $43.8 million, 7.1 percent higher than last year’s levy.