Education Desk: Year-Round Schools First To Feel The Pinch

Jun 20, 2016

One of the extracurricular activities Rock Island - Milan School District considered eliminating to save money was its band program. The district ultimately chose to spend its reserves instead.
Credit Courtesy of Rock Island Schools

Thanks to the ongoing budget impasse, school districts around Illinois are scrambling to figure out how to open without state funding. Schools that operate year-round will be the first to face their day of reckoning.

The Rock Island – Milan District is one of the few districts where every school is on a year-round calendar. Some school districts designate just a handful of buildings to operate year-round, but in Rock Island, every school is on that schedule. Spokeswoman Holly Sparkman says the district plans to use its $23 million savings account to keep the doors open.

“I mean, we’re basically going to wash away 30 years of fiscal prudent management, of building up our reserves to $23 million, and that’s going to be gone in a year. That’s kind of a bitter pill to swallow,” she says. “Even though you build up the reserves for a rainy day, to plan for something, we didn’t necessarily think that not having a state budget was going to be the thing.”

 

The school board has considered cost-saving measures, like eliminating athletics and band, but Sparkman says the amount that could save wouldn’t equal the community’s loss of beloved programs. The district’s chief financial officer has explored debt options like opening a line of credit, but advised that the fees would be too high.

Without state funding, the district’s reserves will run out in February 2017. If the state still hasn’t come through by then, the district plans to borrow against future property tax revenue.