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updated: 3/7/2013 7:59 AM

Quinn's cuts could hit suburban schools, towns

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  • Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address will hit home in the suburbs.

      Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address will hit home in the suburbs.
    Associated Press File photo

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

      Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
    Associated Press file photo

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal to lawmakers Wednesday presents potentially stark budget cuts that he blames largely on the state's skyrocketing pension costs -- costs that will account for $1 out of every $5 out of the state's general checkbook.

His suggested cuts, part of what he called the "most difficult" budget he's ever presented, could come down hard on suburban schools and municipalities.

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Quinn's proposal would wipe out about $150 million from the main fund from which schools get money. But it would also cut $163 million from what schools get to pay for buses.

Transportation money is often more important to suburban schools, which don't get as much general state aid money as poorer school districts in the state.

That could mean tough choices for suburban school districts that have had to deal with bus cuts before.

"The federal sequestration, coupled with the already reduced General State Aid for this year, and the current monies owed to us by the state, create a difficult mix," Elgin Area School District U-46 spokesman Patrick Mogge said.

But it is only March, and it is nearly impossible to gauge how much lawmakers -- who have a May 31 deadline to pass a budget -- will listen to Quinn's plans.

"We have to wait and see what the full impact of these and other funding cuts at the state level will be on our budget," Mogge said.

Dave Beery, spokesman for Maine Township District 207, also reacted to the news with caution, noting the governor's office "has not released enough information to determine impact."

Even though Quinn's cuts could seem stark, Illinois House lawmakers have called for about half a billion dollars less in spending overall, which means the cuts could eventually get deeper.

In addition, Quinn could target other local governments by looking to take away some of local communities' share of the state income tax.

Quinn is looking at freezing what communities get at levels from the last budget. That would mean a $26.9 million cut statewide between this year and next year.

That won't please suburban mayors, who have been fighting over the issue for years.

"That's a large part of many municipalities' budgets," said Buffalo Grove Mayor Jeffrey Braiman.

"It's disturbing," he said. "And it's distracting us from doing our jobs."

Quinn closed his speech Wednesday by channeling Abraham Lincoln.

"Shall we stop this bleeding? Let's get the job done," he said, leaving the podium.

That message resounded with some suburban officials who were listening. Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said the state needs to make the same tough choices communities have.

"We've balanced out budgets," he said. "We made hard choices."

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