Guest Column: R.E.A.CH. was right again!
By Barb Dent
R.E.A.CH. (Rockford Educating All Children) is right again. We predicted last spring that District 205s claim that they would have a surplus budget for this school year was wrong. We predicted that they would have a deficit budget and that they would have to make ALL of the cuts from their A & B lists last spring to balance their budget and reduce their deficit. At our September meeting, we projected the deficit for this school year would be $10 million. On September 19th the district revealed that at this time, this years budget is $7 million in deficit.
They are VIOLATING their balanced budget policy AGAIN. It was supposed to have a surplus of $6 million. This will bring their accumulated deficit to more than $46 million. Just two short years ago when we had a conservative and very diligent board majority (Ted Biondo, Stephanie Caltagerone, Patti Delugas and David Strommer), the accumulated deficit was $13 million. Dr. Alan Brown will have almost quadrupled the deficit in three short years, if he remains as superintendent. The present school board majority (Michael Bliss, Bob Evans, Nancy Kalchbrenner, Jay Nellis and Mike Williams) will have almost doubled the deficit in their short reign.
Its not surprising that this majority is wrong again and have put this district in harms way. They said the districts use of the Tort Fund was legal. They were wrong. They said that the People Who Care case wouldnt end. They were wrong. They said that this past school years budget was balanced when they gave the administration a huge pay increase and allowed the administration to go on a hiring frenzy. They were wrong. They claimed that the corporate replacement taxes were NOT decreasing. They were wrong. They voted on a teachers contract and claimed that it wouldnt affect their surplus budget. They were wrong. They voted to place a 58 cent tax referendum on the ballot because they would be able to prove that the district has lived up to its bargain to balance their budget and reduce their deficit. They were wrong. They claim that they will lose $12 million if the referendum fails. They are wrong again because the district will receive around $15 million from the April 2001 referendum because it doesnt expire until December 2003.
Whats worse is that Mayor Scott, the Chamber of Commerce, Council of 100 and the Realtors Association are once again supporting the districts referendum. Mayor Scott, the Council of 100 and the Chamber have always walked hand in hand with this board majority. They also supported the illegal use of the Tort Fund and said that the People Who Care case wouldnt end. They were wrong. They also supported the last referendum, stating that it would put the district on the right track financially. They were wrong. This year the district will have to take $3 million from the Education Fund to pay back the bonds that the voters approved last March. The district is in worse shape financially because this board and administration wont stop overspending, and community leaders and groups ignore the accurate financial situation.
R.E.A.CH. has supplied the Mayor with their accurate financial information. He hasnt replied. The Realtors refused to meet with R.E.A.CH., Ted Biondo and I declined to meet with the Chamber officers after learning they would host the districts election celebration. Obviously, these groups are listening to Dr. Brown, whose administration has been filled with the test score scandal, social promotion scandal and has allowed the districts financial situation to decline at an alarming rate.
Question: When will these groups wake up and realize this district has no viable financial plan?
Answer: Unfortunately, they wont until the state comes marching in and takes over District 205.
Barb Dent is the president of Rockford Educating All Children (R.E.A.CH.).