Responsive and Equitable Use of Resources
Finances and beyond
It is no secret to anyone with working knowledge of School District U-46 that funding has long been a concern. Property taxes are high even as U-46 is currently funded at 59% of adequacy. While the new Evidence Based Funding model, a new school -funding law passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2017, has begun to bring necessary dollars into the District, the reality is that we have a long way to go before we reach the funding levels of many of our neighboring districts. So how do we move forward with delivering a quality education while also confronted with an operational budget that is still $1000 less than the state average in per pupil spending?
One answer is to maximize to the highest extent possible each and every dollar we spend. Ultimately, the district budget should be aligned to our goals in our strategic plan. This means that resources should be allocated to educational programs that produce the outcomes we want to achieve. While the Board’s strategic plan work was temporarily set aside to focus on the needs caused by the pandemic, we are ready to renew our efforts at supporting our strategic priorities with meaningful goals. As co-chair of the Board’s Finance Committee, I look forward to working on the Efficiency, Excellence, and Accountability portion of our strategic plan, and hope to better align our budget with the programs that bring the district’s theory of action to life.
Key Funding Fact: Illinois’ record of regressive funding continues to place a burden on local taxpayers.
In a 2019 publication, The Civic Federation offered a look into the regressive relationship between property wealth, effective property tax rates, and school funding in Illinois. In 2017, Naperville had an effective residential property tax rate of 2.37%, meaning that a home worth $200K would have a property tax bill of around $4750. During the same year, the Kane County portion of Elgin had an effective residential property tax rate of 3.17%; that same $200K home would cost an Elgin resident $6340 in property taxes. And yet, even with their families enjoying lower tax rates, in FY17 Naperville CUSD 203 was able to invest $3380 more per student into their education than U-46 could. Thanks to the 2017 state funding law, that gap has narrowed slightly, but not enough to provide substantial relief to our taxpayers.
Key Funding Fact: Despite funding gaps, the U-46 Board has supported keeping property tax levels relatively flat.
Annual increases to property tax levies for suburban school districts are capped at either the rate of inflation or at 5%, whichever is lower. Because state education funding is first based on property tax revenues, school districts risk falling behind in terms of inflation in their primary means of funding if they do not take their full levy every year. Obviously, this puts a tremendous burden on our taxpayers, who are already taxed at a higher rate than other, more affluent communities. To compensate, at the direction of the Board U-46 began abating some of our tax dollars back toward the levies on our bond payments. Since 2016, U-46 has abated just over $38 million in property taxes, effectively keeping our overall property tax revenue increase at just 2.89% between FY16 and FY20.
Key Funding Fact: Illinois is in danger of falling seriously behind on their funding commitments under EBF.
The Evidence-Based Funding Law contained many provisions to attempt to equalize funding between highly-funded and financially starved districts. Among those provisions is a stipulation that a minimum of $350 million in new education dollars would be added to the model every year and directed toward underfunded districts, thereby helping them to “catch up” financially to wealthier districts. In response to budgetary problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the state failed to meet the minimum additional funding requirement and instead kept school funding flat for FY21. The proposed budget for FY22 also keeps funding flat. The previous period of flat funding lasted from 2010 to 2018 when EBF went into effect. I am committed to being a voice for restoring funding obligations under EBF so that our students can continue to get the support and resources they need without additional pressure on local taxpayers.