Ptacek: JSD117 Ready to Weather Upcoming Financial Storms in State

By Benjamin Cox on May 23, 2024 at 7:20am

The Jacksonville School District 117 Board of Education had a rather pedestrian meeting last Wednesday. The board mostly made preparation for the upcoming school year and heard from Vision 117 coordinator Bob Roads about the final pieces to the renovations at Eisenhower and Washington Elementary schools. Both projects are expected to be wrapped up in June.

Superintendent Steve Ptacek says the biggest problems may be coming in the Fall when ESSER Funds are expected to sunset in September. He says it will likely put many districts around the state in financial peril, as they have used the temporary money to pay for permanent salaries. He says it will likely lead to personnel cuts at other districts, or the loss of programs.

Ptacek says District 117 is ready to weather the financial storms that may lie ahead: “Fiscal Year 2025, next school year, I’m concerned that there is going to be a major impact across the state as all of the money that was being spent on salaries and programs and services with that money going away, where is it going to come from? How are they going to replace it? Are they going to cut services or are they going to start cutting into the budgets of your state agencies? It’s something that I let the Board of Education know about with the communications I’ve been having that we have to be prepared if the education budget gets cut. It might not. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. It’s my job to prepare the board and the community for the reality of what if it does get cut.”

Ptacek says it’s also a perfect storm on the financial front for districts. Personal Property Replacement Tax (PPRT) revenues have been cut into sharply this year. Last month, Ptacek told the board that the state had committed over-payments the previous two years to districts across the state due to the state’s own miscalculations. He says now they are trying to recoup those miscalculated over-payments: “If you add in that we lost $2.1 million in PPRT this year compared to last year and it’s even lower than 2 years ago and now they are talking about a 10-20% reduction in PPRT for next year, yeah, there is going to be some budgetary concerns in school districts throughout the state. Once again, there is no reason for major concern right now in Jacksonville School District 117 because we have built up a substantial, healthy fund balance to weather that storm. These things will impact the timing of when we are able to do another big project. That doesn’t mean we are not focusing on the big projects, it’s just that financial concerns might delay those things.”

Ptacek says even with new legislation passed during the current Spring session of the General Assembly and the potential cuts possibly coming during the State’s upcoming budget debates, that the district is prepared to weather to any financial storms on the horizon due to their built up fund balances. He says it will likely strike up multiple conversations from education leaders all around the state starting this summer once the state’s budget is passed.