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posted: 3/19/2010 12:01 AM

U-46's funding bill passes Senate

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By Kerry Lester

Legislation that could help Elgin Area School District U-46 claim millions more in state aid each year passed the state senate Thursday in a 40-15 vote.

Sponsored by Sen. Michael Noland, an Elgin Democrat, school code change would force the state board of education to stop using tax rate estimates to determine the amount of local funding for multi-county school districts.

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U-46's 53 schools span 11 communities in Kane, DuPage and Cook counties.

For years, the majority of the district's taxable property was in Kane County. But several years ago, Cook County became dominant. Yet the district is still considered a Kane County district by the state, which officials believe results in inaccurate amounts of state aid.

The more local tax revenue available to a school district, the less state funding it receives.

The "limiting rate" - the maximum property tax rate allowed under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law - determines the amount of local funding. If it is overestimated, it appears the district will receive more in local property taxes than it actually does, but the state delivers less funding based on the estimate.

In U-46's case, Kane County estimates DuPage and Cook counties' rates.

This school year, district officials calculated they should have netted $69.7 million in general state aid. Had the Cook County rate been used, they would have gotten $78 million.

But with Kane County working as the dominant and estimating county, U-46 will get only $58.3 million.

The state gave U-46 a one-time $7.1 million "administrative fix" this year to help with the funding shortfall. Noland's legislation would force the state board to readjust the limiting rate once the actual rate becomes available, and adjust general state aid payments.

U-46 Superintendent Jose Torres addressed the state board in mid-February about the issue.

The legislation comes at a pivotal time for the district, which approved more than 1,000 layoffs Monday.

We're pleased to see it pass the senate," U-46 spokesman Tony Sanders said. "We'll be working with members of the House in hopes it passes there as well."

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