EDWARDSVILLE – Madison County Treasurer Chris Slusser said today that his office will be expediting property tax distributions in September to help some local school districts at least temporarily avoid a funding crisis.
Slusser said that his office will now make two distributions next month, the first on Sept. 12 and the second on Sept. 26.
The September property tax distribution was originally scheduled for Sept. 20. However, during a recent meeting with Bethalto School District 8 Superintendent Jill Griffin and Business Manager Barrett Diest, Slusser was informed that the district was in jeopardy of not making payroll in September due to the state funding crisis.
With the new school funding bill (SB1) now held up in the legislature, the schools have not received their General State Aid payments in August. District 8 was supposed to receive a General State Aid payment of $407,430.91 on Aug. 10h and then a second payment on Aug. 20.
Those payments are not expected to be made until the school funding bill is passed. The Illinois Senate overrode a gubernatorial veto of a bill dealing with the state’s school funding formula on Sunday and the Illinois House is expected to take action on Wednesday.
At best, it remains unclear as to when payments will be caught up.
“The legislature can’t seem to get its act together, and unfortunately, we can’t control what they’re planning to do or when they’re planning to do it. In the meantime, schools are held hostage and some are in jeopardy of closing their doors,” said Slusser. “What we can control is when we distribute our local tax dollars that we’ve collected, so this was an easy decision for me. “
Griffin was very appreciative of the decision.
“As school districts and students across Illinois continue to face mounting uncertainty, as a result of the political wrangling in Springfield, our county government officials are stepping up to support us through this difficult time,” said Griffin. “The Bethalto School District is very grateful to Madison County Treasurer Chris Slusser for agreeing to expedite local property tax distributions to our school district. These local property tax dollars will help us stay afloat, as our state is currently not sending the most basic funding necessary for our school doors to stay open, our General State Aid payments, which for Bethalto is about $814,000 a month and $9 million annually.”
State law requires that the county treasurer distributes property tax dollars at least once every 30 days during the tax cycle. “There’s nothing in the law that says we can’t distribute dollars more than once every 30 days, so we decided to move up the regularly scheduled September distribution allowing schools to meet their mid-month payroll obligations, and we’ll do a second distribution later in the month to assist in their end-of-month payroll,” said Slusser.
“We appreciate Chris inviting us to meet with him, so we could share our predicament during these unprecedented times in public education,” said Griffin. “He, and his office team, were welcoming, empathetic, and truly interested to hear the story of our school district and the negative impact the impasse in Springfield is causing. He has worked diligently to understand the issues that our school district is facing and has taken action to help. We genuinely appreciate his time and effort on behalf of our district and his ongoing commitment to all school districts across the county, during this very challenging time.”
Slusser said that after his meeting with Griffin and Diest, he spoke with other school superintendents around the county who also expressed relief with the news of the expedited payments.
Alton School District 11 Superintendent Mark Cappel was thrilled with the news.
“We’ve been crunching numbers to find a way to stay afloat while the state makes a final decision. We’re very appreciative of Chris Slusser’s willingness to look out for us and give us a little more breathing room. This will allow us to make our September payroll obligations and keep our doors open,” Cappel said.
Slusser said the schools won’t be the only ones benefitting from the early and additional distribution next month. “All taxing districts in the county will be receiving two distributions in September. The school funding crisis triggered this decision, however, we felt it made sense to go ahead and distribute funds to all taxing districts at the same time.”