Teachers union agrees to terms of school budget review, talks resume Monday, Feb. 21
The Rockford Education Association (REA) agreed to terms of a financial review it requested of Rockford Public School District 205’s budget for fiscal 2012 Friday (Feb. 18).
At the third meeting of the Budget Review Consultant Selection Committee, the panel told union reps the audit would only focus on three categories: general state aid revenue, corporate replacement tax and benefits expenses.
The union offered to pay up to $50,000 for the review, only if the entire budget, including financials from fiscal 2011, were examined. However, the committee, composed of ex-Rockford mayors Doug Scott, Charles Box and John McNamara, said that won’t happen.
According to the panel, its decision hinges on what is still being considered a firm deadline of Tuesday, Feb. 22. The panel also found no benefit in reviewing figures from 2011, as there are still four months left in the fiscal year; and some projections have yet to be made.
“If that is all the district is willing to deal with, then it will just be those three items,” REA President Molly Phalen said, as the committee made it clear that without an agreement, no audit would be conducted.
The review was requested after the REA challenged the validity of the school district’s budget shortfall of $50 million for fiscal 2012. The union did its own projections and claims the true hole is more along the lines of $15 million.
“Bottom line is, we’re trying to create something that tracks an answer as to how we got to a $50 million deficit for next year,” Illinois Education Association UniServe Director Mark Michaels said.
John McNamara, in attempt to curtail allegations of wrongdoing, said the school board, based on the administration’s recommendations, will work off of 2011 figures, and others, and make decisions accordingly. This, he said, will be done based on what the board has to work with.
“The board is going to have to say, in their elected capacity, ‘We will either fund this by borrowing (or) we will fund this by fund balance, or we are going to cut,’” McNamara said. “But, that’s their job.”
The committee did not announce the name of an individual or company members have in mind to conduct the review. McNamara said the panel may work through the weekend to explore options.
There was also no word on whether the review would be completed by Tuesday’s meeting of the Rockford Board of Eduction. To extend the Feb. 22 deadline, the school board must have a vote by at least four members.
After a two-hour session, the panel moved to continue the matter Monday, Feb. 21 at 11 a.m. The meeting, the fourth in six days, will be at the Administration Building, 201 S. Madison St.
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