Mt. Vernon Register-News

December 22, 2012

Program cuts possible at MVTHS

By ROSIE GITHINJI
rosie.githinji@register-news.com

MT. VERNON — — With all the cuts and late payments from the state of Illinois to public schools, administrators for public school systems are beginning to look into options that will allow the schools to continue educating their students, but it may have to be at a loss — in programming and less teachers.

Mt. Vernon Township High School Superintendent Dr. Mike Smith said there are a series of things the school will be taking into consideration after the first of the year. Because future funding from the state is unknown at this time, Smith said the high school will have to start exploring budget cut options, which would include a cut in programming for the students or having to down size staff.

“Based on what we hear, we will have to make some decisions which may or may not be based on program cuts,” Smith said. “A lot of the money [MVTHS] received is for operational funding.”

Smith explained that if the state continues to cut funds paid to the school in general state aid or funding for programs such as transportation or special education and other categorical funding, then significant cuts will have to be made within the school.

“It’s all very, very preliminary,” he said. “We will be working on some financial projections after the first of the year. I would like to be optimistic there will be some type of return of fund that has been reduced, but we know that in all likelihood that is not a possibility.”

If the state continues to cut funding MVTHS is looking at a loss between $400,000 to $900,000, Smith said. It would add up to over $1 million in the next few years — a loss Smith said would be hard to recover from.

Currently the school is receiving funds at a prorated amount, or approximately 90 percent of what is owed to the school is being paid. State legislators are discussing lowering the current amount to between 80 to 85 percent.

“It will significantly change the face of public education,” Smith said. “If it is going to happen, the earlier we know, the better. Every public school district is dealing with these same types of apprehensions and concerns.”

Smith added that if the state had just continued with level funding, even at 2009 rates, the school would be financially stable.

“Even if we were at level state aid, that would be a $600,000 turn around,” Smith said. “But they are not, they are cutting it back.”

The state has also been making late payments and are currently six months behind.

We were able to absorb one state aid level reduction and still able to break even, but when they went to two, when they cut two payments ... the amount that we are deficit is that state payment [not received],” Smith said. “If they were to cut two additional state payments, I don’t think I would be able to cut enough, we just could not afford it.”

There was a reduction in force in 2010, Smith said.

“At that point in time, it was mostly related to our [MVTHS] budget,” he said. “We could not continue operating based on the funding at that time because of state aid cuts.”

Everything has been paid to the high school that was owed from the previous fiscal year, according to Smith. General state aid has also been paid, but the money for the categorical funding has not been paid yet, he added.

“We are just going to break for the holidays and then come back and get to work on a number of things,” he said. “We will try to get a picture and plan for the following year on staffing and programs for the coming years.”