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Saline County schools get some state money

updated: 8/11/2017 5:16 PM

SALINE COUNTY -- Local school districts will receive a little bit of relief in the form of owed categorical payments from the state after Illinois comptroller Susana Mendoza released $429 million to K-12 schools Thursday.

The payments will help local school districts, though area superintendents caution that it is not a solution to the state's school funding impasse.

Categoricals pay for certain expenses like school transportation, lunches and special education.

Eldorado Unit 4 School District will be in better shape when the funds are received, Superintendent Ryan Hobbs said, but the payments by themselves are not nearly enough for the schools to operate the entire year.

"They're sending out the payments from last year that we are owed," Hobbs said. "It's very helpful, but we were also supposed to get our state aid payment today, which did not happen."

Harrisburg Unit 3 superintendent Mike Gauch said he anticipates his district will receive a single payment of about half of what Harrisburg is owed, or about $300,000, for categorical expenses from last school year.

Though it's not likely going to be all of what is owed from last year, it is money that will be put to good use, he said.

"That will help," Gauch said.

Though the amount of money each district receives will not be certain until today, Hobbs said Eldorado may receive about $400,000 for last year's categorical expenses that had not been reimbursed until now.

The greater issue, he said, is whether state legislators will override an amendatory veto of the new school funding bill made by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Senate Bill 1, or SB1, is designed to make funding of Illinois K-12 public schools through general state aid payments more equitable across the state.

It also contained language that provided funding for Chicago Public Schools' retirement system, among other provisions.

In issuing an amendatory veto, Rauner struck the language providing the funds for CPS' retirement system, in addition to an annual block grant that school system has received annually since the 1990s.

Whether the Illinois House and Senate approve Rauner's changes or reject them, a three-fifths majority, or supermajority, of each legislative house must vote in agreement. If no supermajority vote is reached either way, the bill dies.

In the meantime, districts at least have some more unexpected funds, Hobbs said.

"I think it will put us through a few months if they don't get us any state aid," he said. "It's not ideal, but we're glad to get it. We're still hoping for a resolution on state aid."