Stakeholder Update on 16-17 Finance Concerns

Stakeholder Update on 16-17 Finance Concerns
Posted on 06/12/2016
Finance Update 2

Download a printable copy of this post 
 
Read June 1, 2016 Letter on Lack of State Budget & School Funding Concerns 

Read May 11, 2016 Open Letter on School Finance & Legislation 
  
                                              




 


 

June 12, 2016


Dear District Stakeholders:


As promised, I am writing again today to update you on recent developments regarding our district finances. As you are no doubt aware, the Illinois Legislators have gone past the May 31st deadline to agree on a state budget that can be approved by a simple majority of yes votes. This makes the passage of a state budget a little more difficult but certainly not impossible.


The next critical deadline is June 30, 2016. This is the end of the State’s fiscal year. Many believe that if a state budget or at least a K-12 public education spending plan is not approved by June 30, there will be no state budget or K-12 public education spending plan until after the November elections. There are plenty of reasons for this thinking but suffice it to say that politics continue to be played in the State of Illinois with public school children, teachers, administrators and support staff personnel being used as pawns in this political game.


Our planning for this doomsday scenario continues. I am not at all optimistic that cooler heads will prevail and that a budget will be passed by June 30, 2016. We simply cannot wait to see how this situation unfolds as we plan for the 2016-2017 school year. I have seen a lot of things in my 32 years as a public educator in Illinois but I have never seen anything like this situation. We have no past history to go forward on so all decisions that must be made are our “best guesses” as to how to proceed.


I want to update you on recent events that have garnered quite a bit of attention from the Galesburg Register Mail. On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, my administrative team and I met with representatives from the GEA to begin a process of bargaining the impact of our recent budget reductions. As you will recall, due to the already precarious financial condition of the District, the Board had approved approximately $3,000,000 in budget reductions for the 2016-2017 school year. The GEA has the right to bargain the impact of those decisions. We met for the first time to start that process on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. Similar bargaining had already taken place with the General Services Employee union leadership.


At that meeting, we were given a list of proposals from the union asking us to consider ten items that the union felt was necessary for them to “sign off’ on the reductions. Of that list of 10 proposals, five of the proposals called for staff to receive additional compensation due to the reductions. Five proposals called for the expenditure of additional payments to staff members at a time when we are reducing expenditures. Three of the proposals dealt with how staff are evaluated, one dealt with employees who may have been transferred as a result of this process but who are still employed and one proposal dealt with retaining the union’s right to continuously bargain the impact of these decisions. We agreed to discuss these proposals after June 30, 2016, the next critical date in the State budget negotiations.


In addition, I presented the GEA with a letter that formally requested the GEA consider agreeing to a hard freeze on salaries for the 2016-2017 school year. My proposal indicated that I would be asking the members of the General Services union, the exempt staff and all administrators to accept that same hard freeze. A hard freeze means that everyone in the district would be working for the same amount of salary in the 2016-2017 school year as they did in the 2015-2016 school year. No employee in the district will be asked to take a cut in salary for next year. I offered to exempt from this request those employees who have already announced their retirement and are in what we call the “retirement pipeline.” Again, I want to stress that I requested the unions consider this. There was no ultimatum given. It was clearly spelled out that ALL district employees would be asked to make this sacrifice.


My request did not receive a response at the bargaining table, which was as expected. However, later that afternoon, I did receive a call from a reporter at the Galesburg Register Mail informing me that he had a copy of my letter to the union and asking if I would I respond to some questions. The union leadership did not inform me that they would be sending a copy of my letter to the GRM. Further, the Editorial Board of the GRM decided to address the subject on their Sunday, June 5 edition as part of the Editor’s Roundtable. Certainly, the editors of the local paper have the right to write about any topic that they wish but they did not call and discuss the proposal with me prior to weighing in on the subject. As a result, several incorrect or misleading statements were made in the editorial about what was asked for and what the freeze would actually mean.


As I have said many times, every decision that I make is based on what is best for our students. They are the reason we are here. Without our students, there is no reason to have a school district and no employee of the district would have a reason to be employed. Thus the request was made for a hard freeze for all employees. We are simply looking at doing all we can to extend the 2016-2017 school year for as many days as possible for our students. Without a state budget that includes a public education K-12 spending plan, we will not have the financial resources to stay open for the entire 2016-2017 school year. Could this happen?  No one knows for sure, but part of my job is to help the Board of Education be as prepared for this possibility as they can.


We are willing to pursue the idea of a hard freeze with our unions if they are willing to do so. This action cannot be forced on anyone but would have to be bargained. To bargain means face to face communication. We are willing to have that face to face communication. What we will not do is bargain this issue in the newspaper or on Facebook. If either of our unions does not feel it is in their members’ best interests to take a salary freeze and to bargain exactly what that will look like, so be it. If that is the case, a hard freeze would not be enacted and our students could potentially miss even more days of school during the 2016-2017 school year. That would truly be an unfortunate event.


As I have said many times before, we need to continue putting pressure on our local Representatives and state Senator, the legislative leaders and Governor Rauner. Thank you to those of you who have already called or written them. If you have not already done so, please consider doing so at your earliest convenience. I believe it will take all of us contacting them and informing them of how no state budget or public education K-12 spending plan will affect you personally is important.


In the meantime, my team and I will be exploring every possible option to keep our doors open for as long as we possibly can in the 2016-2017 school year. Our students deserve no less from all of us. Please feel to contact me with any questions or concerns that you have.


Respectfully,


Ralph Grimm

Superintendent


LEGISLATOR CONTACT INFORMATION


Representative Don Moffitt

64 S. Prairie Street

Galesburg, IL 61401

(309) 343-8000

217-N Stratton Office Building

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-8032

moffitt@grics.net

Senator Chuck Weaver

#5 5415 N. University, Suite 105

Peoria, IL 61614

(309) 693-4921

M103 D State Capital

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-9586

Representative Norine Hammond

331 N. Lafayette St., PO Box 170

Macomb, IL 61455

(309) 782-0416

209-N Stratton Building

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-0416

rephammond@macomb.com

Senator John Sullivan

1601 W. Jackson St., Suite 105

Macomb, IL 61455

(309) 833-5526

417C State House

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-2479

Representative Michael Madigan

300 State House

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-5350

Senator John Cullerton

327 Capital Building

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-2728

Representative James Durkin

316 State House

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-0494

durkin@ILHouseGOP.org

Senator Christine Radogno

309G Capital Building

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-9407

Governor Bruce Rauner

207 State House

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-0244

 

Representative Randy Frese

230 N. Stratton Office Building

Springfield, IL 62706

(217)782-8096

repfrese@adams.net


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