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updated: 2/16/2011 5:11 PM

Lake County schools react to transportation reduction

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The announcement that Lake County schools might get 35 percent less in state aid for transportation services is causing alarm in some districts.

But in others, officials said they had expected a "doomsday scenario" from the state before starting their budgets this year, so Gov. Pat Quinn's reduction in transportation funding wasn't really a huge shock.

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"This is the third year in a row where we have been asked to plan for a doomsday scenario, so this doesn't really shock us," said John Ahlemeyer, superintendent of Gavin School District 37. "We have been planning for a reduction of one kind or another, so we were prepared for something. We'll just budget for the reduction and do what we can."

In Quinn's proposed budget released Wednesday, state funding for transportation would fall from $270 million annually to $175 million per year. It's still unclear whether special education transportation would be affected by the proposed cuts. Experts warn the budget could be revised many times over before final cuts are approved.

Jim Conrey, a Stevenson High School spokesman, said the transportation budget at District 125 is about $5 million annually, of which only about 5 percent comes from the state.

"So, a 35 percent cut by the state in it's transportation funding would have a relatively minor impact on us," he said.

Of greater concern, he said, would be the effect the state cutbacks could have on transportation services for special education students.

"We spend about $1.5 million per year on taxis and minibuses to provide transportation to special education students per the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)," he said. "Of that $1.5 million, the state picks up 60 to 70 percent of the cost."

Grayslake Elementary District 46's chief school business official, David Tylavsky, called the reduction in transportation reimbursement to schools "a serious situation" when he outlined the likely financial effects.

Tylavsky said District 46 expects to receive at least $500,000 less from the state for transportation. That gap would have to be covered with local tax money.

"One of the major increases for us here in school district 46 is transportation," Tylavsky said.

Daily Herald reporters Russell Lissau and Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.

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