When school districts begin to put their yearly budgets together, it can sometimes look like a jigsaw puzzle.
Superintendents and school boards finding which piece fits in the right place and making sure it's completed by the time the budget deadline approaches.
For the past eight years, Marty Cook has been trending the Camp Point Central School Districts finances to track the decline in the amount of state aid the district gets every year. And over the course of the last several years he's seen a drop in state aid money and that equates to cuts he and the school board have had to make throughout the district.
"And we've seen this for the last four years with the reduction in state aid and by all telling signs that we're seeing, it's not going to get any better, tracking that information is important. It helps us to stay out in front of this thing, when it's going to get potentially worse," Cook said.
To relate what Cook has had to contend with, let's take a look at what Camp Point's has received in state aid over the past 10 years. In 2003, the district got $2,987,191. Fast forward to 2009 and there was a gradual increase over the course of six years to a funding level of $4,022,968. But with the economy going downhill, the amount of state aid went the same direction and last year the district saw $2,980,204 in state aid and for the upcoming 2013-14 school year, the district may see another cut of state aid totaling $295,000.
Over the past two years, the district has cut seven positions and most of those where through retirements.
"Our goal is to at least minimize the kids in the classroom by doing this. We're going to be somewhat fortunate, we're going to have a couple of potential retirements that we'll be able to absorb for within. But we're looking at all ways to reduce cost. Whether it's athletics, whether its supply budgets, whether it's transportation, food services. We're examining everything we do to try and find out ways to reduce costs, so if we make the right decisions on that it will have very minimal impact on the kids in the classroom," Cook said.
He also added that even if the district passed an increase in the property tax levy, the district would see an increase in monies to the district for the next couple of years, but then the state would reduce their portion of state aid to even out where the entire financial picture stood before the increase in the property tax rate. So Cook knows there has to be a change and he hopes the change will happen sooner then later.
"This is the worst it's been in the eight years I've been here and actually I don't see next year getting any better. Until the economy turns around in this country and in the State of Illinois, I don't think we will see an up tick in funding but yet something is going to have to be done because schools can't keep going down this road making cut after cut after cut and still offer a good quality education to kids in Illinois," Cook said.