Study: Suburban schools could lose or gain if income tax drops
SPRINGFIELD -- Most suburban school districts would see cuts in funding if the state's temporary income tax increase is rolled back as scheduled, according to a document being circulated as part of Illinois Democrats' campaign to preserve the tax hike and push to update the state's school funding formula.
But a few suburban districts would actually receive more money, and some substantially.
Wauconda Unit District 118 would see its funding nearly double under the calculations, for example. Funding would increase 57 percent in Central Unit District 301. It would rise 42 percent in Warren Township High School District 121. And 40 percent in Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300.
The document, with figures calculated by the state board of education and released by the caucus this week, cites what would be a total of $450 million in general state aid cuts to schools. But a few school districts receive more money despite the state's drop in revenues, because the complicated, 20-year-old funding formula would consider them poorer.
Among them is Barrington Unit District 220, which would stand to gain 17 percent.
Yet that's the only Northwest suburban school district that would gain. The gainers tend to be in outlying suburbs.
Republicans quickly disputed the figures. They said the Democrats are exaggerating the extent of the cuts needed and could manage the state's finances better by finding savings elsewhere.
Senate Democrats estimate Illinois will have a $3 billion budget gap next year. About $1.6 billion of that is because the temporary income tax increase lawmakers approved in 2011 is scheduled to be rolled back in January from its current 5 percent to 3.75 percent.
Working with the Gov. Pat Quinn's office, which also supports keeping the tax increase in place, Senate Democrats asked agency leaders in recent weeks to spell out for lawmakers what 20 percent decreases in discretionary spending would mean for their budgets.
State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch told Senate appropriators in late March that budget cuts would mean $967 million less for education overall.
The Senate Democrats' document reveals for the first time the impact to specific districts around the state in terms of general state aid, the state money used to offset the basic cost of educating students.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat and appropriations committee chairman, said detailing the impact of the cuts is essential.
"I think it's going to be very devastating to students, to families and people who educate," he said.
But Republicans say before cutting school aid, Democrats should look for way to reduce wasteful spending in Medicaid or other state agencies and programs.
"These are political spin numbers to sell a tax increase," GOP Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine said. "The truth of the matter is you can have the tax increase go down and you can spend as much on education as they did this year. These guys have found religion on education."
Yet, despite those criticisms, GOP lawmakers have yet to release their own budget proposal showing how education cuts could be spared without extending the tax increase.
Since the late 1990s, Illinois' complicated school funding formula has awarded some state funds to districts based on poverty levels and other money on the number of students participating in specific programs.
According to the Democrats' document, Chicago Public Schools would see a $173 million decrease in funding next year, or 16 percent, and Waukegan schools would see a $4.5 million cut, or 5.5 percent. Aurora East Unit District would see an $8.2 million dip, or 10 percent.
The boosts in funding occur mainly in the increasingly populous, property-rich suburbs, where property values are declining and enrollment totals are rising, said Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education.
Yorkville Community District schools would see a $1.9 billion boost in state funds and Carpentersville-based District 300 schools would see a $6.4 million boost. Because both districts spend far more than the minimum amount the state determines must be spent to educate each student, some Democrats say the document is evidence that the state's school funding system needs to be changed.
"The fact that districts which are pretty well off will do better is absurd," said state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and sponsor of legislation that would change the current formula to allocate money primarily based on a district's poverty levels. "That's proof we should stick a knife into the current formula."
• Daily Herald staff writer Michelle Holdway contributed to this report.
Biggest gains and losses (by percentage)These are the state board of education's calculations on school district funding if the state income tax rate rolls back to 3.75 percent from 5 percent.
Dollar change % changeDuPage County winnersMarquardt Dist. 15 $1,075,673 +20.4%
Queen Bee Dist. 16 $493,287 +13.0%
Indian Prairie District 204 $2,339,184 +11.9%
West Chicago Dist. 33 $724,252 +6.6%
Medinah Dist. 11 $5,115 +1.5%
DuPage County losersWheaton Warrenville Dist. 200 -$729,423 -11.4%
Bensenville Dist. 2 -$309,167 -10.8%
Naperville Dist. 203 -$650,820 -10.6%
Lake Park Dist. 108 -$124,257 -10.1%
Benjamin Dist. 25 -$29,072 -10.0%
Kane County winnersCentral Unit District 301 $799,442 +57.5%
Community Unit District 300 $6,489,128 +40.3%
Kaneland District 302 $839,1531 +31.3%
Batavia District 101 $133,513 +4.9%
Elgin Area U-46 $1,547,683 +1.8%
Kane County losersGeneva District 301 -$234,677 -11.2%
Aurora East Dist. 131 -$8,213,369 -9.9%
St. Charles District 303 -$486,270 -9.7%
Aurora West Dist. 129 -$1,000,712 -3.1%
Lake County winnersWauconda District 118 $2,480,468 +96.7%
Warren Twp. H.S. District 121 $865,641 +42.4%
Big Hollow Dist. 38 $609,900 +36.0%
Grant Dist. 124 $447,031 +32.5%
Aptakisic-Tripp Dist. 102 $130,674 +27.4%
Lake County losersGrass Lake Dist. 36 -$10,927 -16.1%
Gavin Dist. 37 -$271,922 -15.9%
Oak Grove Dist. 68 -$28,010 -15.8%
Emmons Dist. 33 -$16,278 -14.0%
Rondout Dist. 72 -$4,946 -13.9%
McHenry County winnersCrystal Lake Dist. 47 $1,323,943 +34.7%
McHenry Dist. 156 $540,711 +28.5%
Huntley Dist. 158 $2,105,725 +15.1%
Crystal Lake District 155 $802,591 +11.4%
McHenry County losersCary Dist. 26 -$156,822 -12.7%
Northwest suburban winnersBarrington Unit Dist. 220 $363,314 +17.1%
Northwest suburban losersArlington Hts. Dist. 25 -$283,903 -13.7%
Maine West H.S. Dist. 207 -$419,278 -12.6%
River Trails Dist. 26 -$85,215 -10.5%
Mount Prospect. Dist. 27 -$69,905 -8.7%
NW Suburban H.S. Dist 214 -$458,792 -8.3%
Source: Illinois State Board of Education