Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report 100-25


SPECIAL SESSION CONTINUES; NO BUDGET 
ACTION YET

NEW VERSION OF PROPERTY TAX FREEZE


The Illinois General Assembly has been convening each day since Governor Bruce Rauner called members back into a special session beginning last Wednesday. There has been no official movement of any budget compromise bill, but discussions between both parties and both chambers have been taking place. If no action is taken by Friday, the state will again be operating without any budget – permanent or temporary – in place.

For the most part, both the House of Representatives and Senate have been in the special session for a matter of minutes each day. Enough to gavel in, take roll call, and gavel out. There has not been much of any other activity in the Senate as leaders there have stated that they completed their work in May by approving bills for a spending plan, new revenues, school reform, and more. Generally, Senators are waiting for bills to come back over from the House.

The House of Representatives has been adjourning the special session, but then convening immediately into a concurrent regular session. Little floor action has taken place, but committee hearings on budget issues have been regularly scheduled throughout most of the day. Generally, each day has highlighted a “Committee of the Whole” hearing on the House floor where all House members participate in questioning witnesses on a variety of subjects. Friday it was on the subject of a property tax freeze; Saturday it was the school funding formula reform; Sunday it was pension reform; and Monday it was local government consolidation. The Alliance testified in Friday’s, Saturday’s, and Monday’s committee hearings.

For the most part, the larger pieces of a budget compromise package remain the same: new revenues, school funding reform, a property tax freeze, pension reform, and workers’ compensation reform.

PROPERTY TAX FREEZE

House Democrats, who to this point have resisted property tax freeze legislation, amended SB 484 to make changes to the latest property tax freeze legislation. SB 484 was approved by the Senate last month and contains a 4-year freeze on local government property tax extensions. The bill was amended and passed by the House Revenue and Finance Committee this morning and sent to the House floor.

The bill now calls for a 4-year freeze on property tax extensions for most, but sets the limit for Chicago Public Schools and other “qualified school districts” at the lesser of 5 percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI). A “qualified school district” is one that has been granted a hardship exemption from the State Superintendent of Education – generally those districts that are on the “financial watch list.” The bill also increases the homestead exemption for certain veterans and senior citizens. A complete analysis of SB 484 can be found here.

OTHER MAJOR ISSUES

Illinois’s long term pension debt has been no secret. Many previous attempts to make significant changes to the state pension system have failed, but that is not stopping the Illinois General Assembly from making another attempt at finding a constitutional fix to address the current pension liability. While no “compromise” pension bill has yet surfaced, the pension changes will likely center around the consideration model. Under the consideration model, current pension eligible employees would have to make the choice between having future salary increases count towards pensionable salary, and having the current compounded cost of living adjustment applied to pension earnings. While there seems to be plenty of question about whether or not the consideration plan will pass constitutional muster, the Illinois General Assembly seems to have settled on the fact that this is the next pension reform idea to send to the high court.

Another issue that has emerged as a potential piece in a final budget deal is local government consolidation. The Illinois General Assembly has already passed a local government consolidation bill, SB 3, but some legislators feel that the bill is not stringent enough. The current iteration of local government consolidation contains provisions for voter-led consolidation efforts. While many units of local government (townships, counties, municipalities) might not have this type of consolidation currently in statute, there is a robust process for school consolidation currently on the books. One of the main areas of contention with the new consolidation effort are provisions for a county, municipality, or a township to absorb a school district or other forms of local government. From the discussion in the Committee of the Whole, there were many questions about this type of broad consolidation effort.

Tax structure legislation is also likely to be revised. As it came over from the Senate, SB 9 would increase the individual income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent and the corporate rate from 5.25 percent to 7 percent. The bill would also broaden the sales tax to cover certain services and increase a rate on utilities such as cable, satellite, and digital streaming services. Those latter provisions are reportedly under review.

The House today also filed an amendment to the appropriations bill, SB 6. Details of the 658 page bill are not yet available, but according to Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) the bill will add spending to several education line items over the Senate spending level. Line items with expected increases are the evidence-based funding model, transportation reimbursements, early childhood education, and after school programs.

Lastly, the school funding reform debate continues with the recent heightened partisan chatter. The House amended SB 1 with revisions addressing Chicago Public Schools of which Republicans in both chambers took exception to. The bill has been approved by both houses but the governor has vowed to veto the bill. Discussions have been continuing on how to address the differences.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Second school security seminar scheduled

For the second year, IASB will be hosting a half-day School Safety and Security Seminar at the Joint Annual Conference in Chicago. This educational programming is being added in response to the critical challenges being faced by schools worldwide in the area of providing and maintaining schools as safe and secure places.

The 2017 Seminar, entitled “Preparation for School Safety,” will again take place in conjunction with the Conference. It will be held Friday, Nov. 17 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

School board members and administrators are encouraged to invite their local emergency responders, school resource officers, school security directors, facility directors, and others who help prepare and carry out security procedures on their campuses to attend this important seminar.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
“Preparation for School Safety” will include the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois School and Campus Safety Program. School districts will be presenting, as well as featured speaker Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a leading author and trainer on school safety.

In addition to the Friday morning Seminar, IASB will offer eight related panel sessions on safety-related issues, including targeted violence prevention, behavioral threat assessments, using social media to thwart violent attacks, and crisis management.

The inaugural School Safety and Security Seminar in 2016 examined how issues of safety impact school learning environments in relation to drills and procedures, physical plant and school buildings, and school climate and culture. Click here for a full recap of the 2016 seminar

“Mark your calendars now; registration will open at a date to be determined,” said IASB Deputy Executive Director Ben Schwarm.

Friday, June 23, 2017

IASB's Pritzker, Schwarm pen
property tax column

A column by Ben Schwarm, deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, and IASB President Phil Pritzker, was published in the State-Journal Register (Springfield) as part of the newspaper’s Point/Counterpoint series. The topic was the ongoing discussion of a property tax freeze.

Current proposals that apply to school districts would not allow a district’s tax extension to be increased without voter approval. The column begins:

Pritzker  
Schwarm
Point: Education of state’s children harmed with property tax freeze

The proposed legislation in the Illinois General Assembly regarding a “property tax freeze” would undoubtedly have an adverse effect on local school districts across the state, while providing a limited benefit for individual taxpayers.

The proposed “freeze” is not a cap on individual taxpayers’ property tax bills. In fact, some property tax bills could still increase, depending on individual circumstances. Decreases in individual bills would be relatively small. The limit in the proposed legislation is a cap on the property tax extension levied by a unit of local government or school district — the aggregate amount of all property tax receipts.


The net effect is that hundreds of millions of dollars would be lost to local school districts because of a property tax freeze. ...

Click here to read the complete letter at the State Journal-Register opinion section.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Federal Legislative Report 115-05

MEDICAID FUNDING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

A vote is expected within the next two weeks on the Senate’s version of a health care bill, also discussed as a repeal of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. The House passed their version on May 4. The Senate version has mostly been negotiated behind the scenes; however, before any vote is taken in the Senate, an independent analysis must be done of the language by the Congressional Budget Office.

Illinois school districts currently receive $144 million in Medicaid reimbursements to provide medical care and special education services for students. These services include the work of professionals such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, school psychologists, school social workers, school nurses, and reimbursement for costly supplies and materials. The House version contained language jeopardizing Medicaid funding in schools (see FLR 115-02 and 115-03), and it is assumed the Senate language will contain the same.

Please contact Senators Durbin and Duckworth and ask them to oppose provisions that place arbitrary caps on how much Medicaid funding a child receives. Also, let them know the services you provide in your district that will be at risk if those funds are not available.

Senator Durbin: 202/224-2152
Senator Duckworth: 202/224-2854

Click here to read the entire Federal Legislative Report 115-05, including information on the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and Fiscal Year 2018 federal budget appropriations.

VIDEO: Governmental Relations discuss unfunded mandates, Special Session budget components

In a follow-up video to “Why the budget impasse continues,” IASB's Zach Messersmith talks with Governmental Relations Director Deanna Sullivan about school mandates passed by the Illinois General Assembly during the spring legislative session.

Sullivan also previews issues that will likely be covered during the June 21-30 special session, including possible pension reform, school finance changes, a revenue component, and consolidation of local governments and schools.

If this video is not displaying properly, click here.