Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Will plan spell r-e-l-i-e-f?

HB - 750 will undoubtedly pass in the fall veto session. But this will not help McHenry County Schools. Once the income taxes leave the County they will not come back. Schools will continue to overspend and referenda will not cease. Please take the time to contact your legislators and tell them to vote no on any income tax increases, tax swaps or new taxes to businesses. There are two ways to balance a budget. One way is to increase revenues the other is to decrease spending. It is time to decrease spending in the schools. Taxpayers should not be the ones to always take a pay-cut.

The following piece appeared in the Northwest Herald.

Will plan spell r-e-l-i-e-f?

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Local school district leaders aren’t pinning their hopes on HB 750 – the latest education funding reform proposal reintroduced this month.

And they don’t think that it is the solution to Illinois’ school funding woes.

Officials aren’t even bothering to crunch the numbers to see how they will fare under the bill. Many of the county’s education veterans have seen so many proposals come and go over the years, they are wondering why this one will be any different.

“I’ve been in education 31 years,” said Ronald Miller, superintendent of Crystal Lake District 47.

“It comes up all the time, ... and then it stalls.”

House Bill 750 is designed to equalize the state’s funding system, which critics say is too reliant on local property-tax dollars.

The bill would increase the state income tax and tax consumer services, such as haircuts and lawn care, to provide a revenue stream to boost state aid to schools. It guarantees property tax relief, in the form of a refund from the state, to taxpayers.

The organization that wrote the legislation, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, says no school district in Illinois would lose money under the proposal.

Local legislators are skeptical. Even if local school districts don’t lose money, the taxpayers of McHenry County likely will be helping foot the bill of making the system more equitable, they said.

“McHenry County would lose money,” said state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-Crystal Lake. She and state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, say they oppose the legislation.

Local school district leaders say they aren’t sure how they would be affected.

Allan Smigiel, director of finance for McHenry District 15, said he didn’t know the specific impact on his district. He said similar proposals to HB 750 already had been proposed without any action.

But until the Legislature addresses the state’s structural deficit, he said, it shouldn’t be taking on the school’s education system.

Education leaders throughout the state agree that the quality of a child’s education shouldn’t depend on where the child lives. But part of the challenge is that each district and legislator wants to protect their local districts. In McHenry County, local dollars provide up to 90 percent of school funding. In other areas of the state, the percentages are far less.

Miller said there was a natural skepticism from McHenry County taxpayers about any reform that meant sending money to Springfield for the state to dole it out.

“No ifs, ands and buts,” Miller said. “Anytime money goes to Springfield, we worry about it.”

As much as property-tax dollars are a burden, taxpayers prefer to have that local control, said Mike Tanner, assistant superintendent of finance for Prairie Grove District 46.

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