Jacksonville Superintendent expected a pension shift if Rauner’s budget goes through

By David Coy on February 23 at 9:24am

A local superintendent is reacting to Governor Bruce Rauner’s recent budget proposal. On Valentine’s Day, Governor Rauner introduced a spending plan that would shift the cost of teacher pensions from the state, to the local school districts. WLDS-WEAI met with Jacksonville Superintendent Steve Ptacek on Wednesday to discuss the possible out come it could have on district 117.

“We’ve been predicting that for a while because this is the one item Michael Madigan had spoke about this numerous times. The scary part of this is one of the things where they may come to an agreement. We are mentally predicting that some time down the road, we are going to have the pension shift to the district. If you have a full pension cost shift, it’s going to cost, rough numbers, a million dollars a year. We don’t know how much extra money from the new funding formula, if it is going to off set that, so right now, there’s a bunch of ball juggling in the air and we don’t know exactly how it’s going  to end up. ” Ptacek said.

Right now the Jacksonville school district has some surplus to help potentially offset the cost. Ptacek says it wouldn’t cover the shift over a prolonged period.

“If we all of a sudden found out next year they are shifting a million dollars towards you. We don’t have to immediately start talking about, we have more time to sit back and do a more thorough analysis what we need to do to respond. If that would, are we seriously talking about the long range about some programs being cuts, if it was that extreme, the reality would be yes. We do not have capacity to sell safe bonds in this districts so we do not have the capacity take care of emergency repair and needs in our buildings. We are running a household as if you had no credit cards, no home loans, no car loans, everything is cash based. You start throwing in a lot of expenses on top of that, that can put you in an economically tragic situation.” explained Ptacek.

Ptacek says he wants to reassure everyone that they are not going to start talking about exactly what the impact would be.

Besides the proposed budget, a new school funding formula was recently released. Illinois will invest $13.9 million across the state. That formula would be an evidence based model. It will use about 34 cost factors and will adjust to the individual needs of the districts.

Ptacek says he originally was involved with a group to help tweak the old funding formula but he changed his mind when a new plan was introduced.

“There were systems involved in the old formula that could have been tweaked, that could have shifted money from wealthier schools to poorer schools, if we needed more money overall, we could have changed the 6119 to a new number. We have created an over complicated beast unnecessarily, and now we are talking about extra things for districts to do and write ups to get the funding formula. That in the long run, districts will look back and say ‘why did we support thing?’ We threw out the baby with the bath water with the old funding formula, the problem was proration, the problem wasn’t the formula itself. It’s an educational, foundational concept, you don’t throw out a problem that you have not instituted with vitality. ” Ptacek said.

Ptacek says the state had a model that it did not fully fund and thought Illinois should have waited before it would change the who formula.