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Change school funding method? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Change school funding method?
State committee drafting resolution, board told

by Lyle R. Rolfe


The State of Illinois' method for fundng schools may be changed, Greg O'Neil told his fellow Oswego School District Board members Monday night.

He said he received a report from the Illinois Senate Advisory Committee that it is drafting a resolution to send to the legislature in support of full funding of school districts by the state.

At present Oswego receives only 89 percent of the funds it is supposed to receive for education based on average daily attendance figures.

He said the committee is recommending a level of $8,672 per student as a minimum.

"Right now it's about $6,112 and we're only getting a percentage of that," he said, adding that he does have some concerns.

"I think they're trying to find the fairest way to distribute state funds. But in the report, the formula is based on the average property wealth per student ratio. I have some concerns because they don't tell how they arrive at the average property wealth. I assume it's all property including commercial, industrial and residential," he said.

O'Neil questioned whether this is a good measure of wealth. He said a district may have high property values and a high debt level which would not have anything to do with wealth.

He said basing a formula on wealth is inaccurate if it is based on property.

The state committee is trying to find a way to modify the formula to measure a district's ability to pay beyond property wealth, he said. But he noted that a community such as Oswego School District, which has a very low commercial tax base, may end up losing out if they don't speak up.

O'Neil said he does not have a formula in mind that would benefit the district but believes board members should discuss and find a way to provide some input on the issue.

He said the district has a property tax rate of about 3.5 percent of the fair market value of a home.

"It's difficult to imagine that our residents would support much higher (taxes), so we get short-changed on General State Aid. With the high tax rates we have that's basically what I'd like to see somehow incorporated into what they are already paying so they could receive some funds from the state to offset some of the costs without having to go back to the taxpayers for more money," he said.

O'Neil said the committee feels it's inappropriate to use the Education Fund formula for property tax relief and he does not disagree with that.

"If property tax relief does not come from the state, it does not come. It has to come from the state," he said.

He noted that 49 of the 50 states fund their education systems better than Illinois. To say that they can't incorporate that into the formula is wrong.

"I think we should point that out. The rate is very high in Illinois and it's creating a very bad situation for many of our citizens. I think that it would be appropriate to look at Education Funds from the standpoint that other states are able to fund their education systems," he said.

O'Neil noted that while areas of the state with a nuclear power plant or large industrial plant get to keep all that tax money "the rest of us living in the state don't enjoy the benefits of those taxes so that's the angle Oswego should take."

O'Neil said the district should approve a resolution to support its effort while voicing concerns that the existing formula should be moved in a direction that would not hurt the Oswego school system.

Board President Bill Walsh agreed, adding that the district's Finance Committee should prepare a resolution for the board to review and present to the state representatives.

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