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West Aurora receives grim forecast on state aid

Updated: February 11, 2013 6:58AM

AURORA — The West Aurora School District could be facing significant shortfalls when it comes to budgeting for the 2013-14 school year, according to Chief Financial Officer Christi Tyler.

Tyler told the School Board Monday that the district could face as much as a $7.1 million shortfall in general state aid for the year. The state has also only paid a small fraction of the $5.1 million the district is owed for restricted grants.

Coupled with a 94 percent decrease in new property growth from 2007-11 and a potential shift in pension responsibilities to the local level, there could be some funding challenges as the district begins drafting the 2013-14 budget in the spring, she said.

“Those numbers are significant for us,” Superintendent James Rydland said. “There’s not a positive answer here on the horizon.”

As Tyler begins the budgeting process, she said she’d be seeking direction from the board on potential cutbacks. When the district faced significant shortfalls in 2009, the board responded by shutting down Lincoln Elementary School, an option that saved more than $900,000 in a year.

With a recent shift to all-day kindergarten, the district is currently utilizing more space.

The board also received a state-of-the-state financial presentation from Bob Grossi, a trustee in Bloom Township, which portrayed a grim funding picture for the future. The statewide trend for real estate tax revenues is sharply trending down. In 2005, statewide tax revenue was more than $10 billion. By 2011, it sat at $2 billion.

Districts heavily dependent on state aid will be in the most trouble, he said. There is a high probability for a long-term funding crisis. The financial condition of the state is to the point that there would need to be several years of economic recovery before school funding could increase, he said.

“They want to help, but there literally is no money,” he said. “I think we have to make it a new reality that this is where we are going to be.”

Grossi predicted that there will be more teacher strikes as the situation grows worse. He also predicted that property-poor districts will be forced to close and merge with other districts over the next five to seven years.

“This crisis is going to be a huge challenge for student learning,” he said.

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