When the Rockford School District approved Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson’s re-structured budget this past week, the superintendent promised any additional funding from Springfield would go into paying off the district's $10 million deficit entering this school year.
The district is getting a big surprise to the tune of $9 million in unexpected money. It's an infusion of cash that board members say can go a long way into getting the district back on the right financial footing.
Out of the blue the Rockford School District is getting an early Christmas present from Springfield. It's a gift-wrapped $9 million that board members could put the district in the black.
Board member David Kelley says, "Which is wonderful news because after Superintendent Thompson’s reviewed the budget, the district still faces a $10 million deficit."
Rockford will receive nearly $89 million from the state's new budget agreement. That means an additional $9 million in a combination of state aid and various grants will be pumped in from the state. That is more than in 2003 when the district received nearly $80 million.
While Kelley says the additional funds are a pleasant surprise, he says the district isn't out of the clear just yet.
"We've got a one year shot in the arm for the district. It will go a long way towards eliminating the deficit but our long term solution has to be to address our structured costs," explains Kelley.
He goes on to say that in order for the district to have a balanced budget in the coming years unions have to step up and cut down their health care and other expenses.
Kelley states, "We've got unbearable overhead costs and we have to reduce those, it’s going to require concessions from the union."
While there might be pressure to use the additional funds to bring back some cut staff positions, Kelley says a short term fix won't eliminate a long-term staffing problem.
"It would be a folly to use a one time infusion of money to sustain ongoing recurring costs that will happen every year. We will then go into the same turmoil the following year we went through this year."
The upcoming year's budget could almost be sliced away entirely. Kelley says it's the taxpayers who are relieved of paying off the district's accumulated deficit.
Kelley says, "Any deficit that we have in our budget has to be borrowed and borrowed money you have to pay interest on it. It's additional costs to the taxpayers, so it's like we're getting a chance to pay off a large credit card debt."