D. 215 braces for potential financial issues

2013-02-27T12:00:00Z 2013-02-27T20:20:04Z D. 215 braces for potential financial issuesDavid P. Funk Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 27, 2013 12:00 pm  • 

CALUMET CITY | Superintendent Creg Williams on Tuesday told members of the District 215 School Board their budget is at the mercy of outside forces.

The looming threat of the federal sequester, Williams said, could hit the district as soon as Friday because of cuts to federal aid.

"Title I will be affected. Our special education grant will be affected. And our career and technical education funding will be affected," Williams said. "We do need to understand that that impact is an immediate impact."

President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders Friday to discuss the sequester, which would make $85 billion in automatic cuts across the federal budget this year. Those cuts would take effect Friday morning.

Williams said based on what he and district Finance Director Charles DiMartino have been able to assess, cuts of between 5 percent and 10 percent can be expected in the District 215 budget.

"This is not one of those things where you can call up your congressman because they're at a point now where it's a stalemate," Williams said. "It could really have some crippling effects on school districts across the country."

Also impacting the district's finances in the near future is last week's announcement the Sears store in River Oaks Center is closing, resulting in a loss of property tax revenue. Sears officials said the store will close in early June. It has been an anchor at the mall since 1966.

Carson Pirie Scott closed its River Oaks location in January.

Taxpayers may be asked to pick up the slack, DiMartino told the board.

"In the immediate, we may not lose money directly but the property taxes on our constituents go up. And if we have to raise taxes as a school district, then that amount makes it go up even further," Williams said. "We've got to go through the math on it. We've got to look at it very cautiously and really begin to look at what effect that's going to have and make adjustments so that it's just not too burdensome (on taxpayers)."

The district has a good record and has not asked for any increase in taxes for three years, Williams said.

Williams and DiMartino are going to have an internal meeting to discuss the impact of the sequester as well as Sears and Carson Pirie Scott leaving the area, Williams said.

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