Paul Nordstrom wants to make one thing clear: it wasn’t his idea, or that of his fellow superintendents, to pay for the state’s regional offices of education with local tax funds.
And even though he says the amount the state will withhold out of those funds is much lower than many feared, Nordstrom, the regional superintendent for Grundy and Kendall counties, said he wished the state had found another way to reinstate the regional offices, which haven’t been funded since June.
“I don’t think any of us in our business feel that’s right,” Nordstrom said. “It’s not particularly fair to our local entities.”
The state’s 44 regional offices of education were originally eliminated from the state’s 2012 budget. But the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools argued that they serve several important purposes, from inspecting schools to certifying substitute teachers to training bus drivers, and the offices should be retained.
On Nov. 17, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that reinstated funding for those offices for one year, taking the $13 million needed from the corporate replacement tax paid to municipalities each year. This is an income tax on businesses, and has been in place since 1979—it was meant to replace an abolished property tax on corporations.
Montgomery expects to take in about $35,000 from this tax next year. Yorkville expects to receive about $16,000, and Oswego took in about $9,000 in 2010.
But while some have feared that the state may keep most or all of the corporate replacement tax, Nordstrom said that the plan is to withhold merely one percent of it. For Montgomery, that would mean a loss of around $350. Oswego and Yorkville will be losing $97.95 and $213.71, respectively, Nordstrom said.
Nordstrom confirmed that before last week, his office had not been paid since June. It’s been difficult—he said Regional Offices of Education have lost employees in the past few months, because “they think if this organization is not getting paid, I shouldn’t keep working for you,” he said.
A 14-member state commission has been convened to consider whether to keep the Regional Offices of Education, and their report is due August 1, 2012, according to this Civic Foundation story. But Nordstrom said that question has been asked and answered several times at the state level, and each time the regional offices have been deemed too important to cut.
The problem, he said, is that there is no Plan B for the services the regional offices provide. And, he noted, expenses for the regional offices have dropped about 40 percent in the last decade.
“If every governmental entity would do that, it would be a plus for us,” he said.
Municipalities like Montgomery opposed the funding bill, because they believe local funds should not be diverted to help the state with its financial troubles, according to Montgomery Village Manager Anne Marie Gaura. Montgomery officials wrote letters and made phone calls to state legislators, and also opposed the bill as a member of the Metro West Council of Government.
Nordstrom described the funding plan as “the state shifting money again,” and expressed sympathy for local governments.
“It was never the idea of the regional superintendents to take funding from local sources,” he said. “I wish that wasn’t the case. I don’t like to see money taken from municipalities either.”