Reick lays out argument for supporting veto of school funding bill
With public schools around the state hoping for a miracle to get their funding in place for the year, Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) perhaps appropriately cited scripture in a recent post on his website.
“The governor has issued an amendatory veto to Senate Bill 1, and the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments has begun,” Reick wrote.
SB1 introduces evidence-based funding to state K-12 schools. In its form as sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner, it also provided additional money for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), including pension payments. Rauner stripped that addition from the bill and sent SB1 back to the Legislature.
“Making Chicago pay its own way just like the rest of us is something I’ve been screaming about for months,” Reick wrote. “CPS has plenty of access; it just doesn’t have the spine to go after it. How well would CPS be funded if (House Speaker) Mike Madigan had to pay property taxes at the same level as they have to do in Harvey?”
Legislators were now faced with deciding whether to pass SB1 as Rauner changed it, attempt an override or do nothing, which would effectively kill the measure and keep schools in limbo. A veto would require a three-fifths majority, which most reports have considered unlikely.
In arguing his case for equitable funding, Reick points to a graphic he created to demonstrate the relatively low property tax rates in Chicago. According to the analysis, Madigan paid $4,600 in property taxes in 2016, based on an assessment of his home that put its value at $294,180, which amounts to a tax rate of 1.56 percent. In Harvey, that same home would have garnered a tax bill of nearly $15,500, Reick determined.
“(The veto) removes $221.3 million for CPS pension normal cost and retiree health care from its Base Funding Minimum (hold harmless), and instead amends the Pension Code to provide a continuing appropriation for CPS normal and retiree health care costs,” Reick wrote. “Therefore, CPS would still receive funding for its normal pension costs, but through the Pension Code and not a school funding formula, just like every other district in the state.”
Rauner’s changes also prevent CPS from counting its pension liability against its local revenue, a measure that would qualify the district for increased funding, and prevents the district from under-reporting current property wealth through tax-increment financing districts.
According to Reick, further changes that affect all districts include a future change from a per-district hold-harmless provision to a per-pupil hold-harmless provision, and removal of a minimum funding level that Reick characterized as unsustainable.
“All in all, while the bill as amended doesn’t go far enough to provide for substantive property tax relief, it’s a vast improvement over SB 1, and I’m firmly in the camp which will vote to uphold the governor’s veto,” Reick wrote. “Now let’s see if the Senate and the speaker will let us do that.”
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