Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 23, 2013

ISBE report finds schools struggle financially

By TESA GLASS tesa.glass@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON —Financial profiles for Jefferson County schools show districts are struggling, like many in the state.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, a statewide financial analysis shows more than 100 school districts have dropped out of the highest financial ranking in the past year and the number of districts in Financial Watch — the lowest category — has doubled.

The financial health of school districts in the state are ranked by Financial Recognition, in which a district receives a score of 3.54 to 4.0 and requires little or no review or involvement by ISBE; Financial Review, with a score of 3.08 to 3.53 and require limited review by ISBE but will be monitored for potential downward trends; Early Warning, with a score of 2.62 to 3.07, with ISBE monitoring closely to offer proactive technical assistance and reviewed; and Financial Watch, with a score of 1.0 to 2.61, the highest risk category. ISBE monitors Financial Watch districts closely and offers assistance in the way of financial projections, cash flow analysis, budgeting, personnel inventories and enrollment projections.

Those schools in Financial Recognition status in Jefferson County include Opdyke-Belle Rive Grade School; Mt. Vernon District 80; Ina Grade School; Rome Grade School; Summersville Grade School; Waltonville Unit District; and Field Grade School;

Schools in the Financial Review category are Bethel Grade School; Bluford Grade School Grand Prairie Grade School; Woodlawn Grade School; Woodlawn High School; and Mt. Vernon Township High School.

Schools in Financial Early Warning are Dodds Grade School; and Farrington Grade School.

Those schools on Financial Watch are McClellan Grade School and Webber Township High School.

The ISBE is attributing the downward spiral to state education budget cuts and decreased local revenues.

“It is no surprise that our analysis shows the harmful effects of multiple cuts to education funding by the legislature,” said ISBE Chairman Gery J. Chico. “School districts have already eliminated thousands of teaching positions, increased class sizes, delayed facility repairs and so on, all in an effort to reduce expenses. We cannot expect Illinois to remain competitive in a global economy if we continue to shirk our responsibility to children as our schools struggle to make ends meet.”

The 2013 Financial Profile scores show the number of districts in Financial Recognition has fallen from 670 last year to 562 — accounting for 65 percent of the state’s 865 school districts. Districts on the Financial Watch list went from increased from 17 to 45 this year and nearly 13 percent of the state’s school districts are in the two lowest categories.

School districts are placed in financial categories by analyzing five indicators — fund balance to revenue ratio, expenditure to revenue ratio, days of cash on hand, percent of short-term borrowing available and percent of long-term debt remaining.

“While the Financial Profile alone cannot provide a complete picture of a district’s financial health, it provides a tool for ISBE staff to use with other data and information to assess an individual district’s financial status,” information from ISBE states. “This is the 11th year the Financial Profile has been used to evaluate districts.”