Madison County Treasurer Chris Slusser said his office will be expediting property tax distributions in September to help some local school districts at least temporarily avoid a funding crisis, according to a press release from his office.
With the state's new school funding bill (SB1) now held up in the legislature, schools have not received their General State Aid payments in August, the release states.
Two distributions will be made to schools in Madison County, on Sept. 12 and 26.
“The legislature can’t seem to get its act together, and unfortunately, we can’t control what they’re planning to do or when they’re planning to do it. In the meantime, schools are held hostage and some are in jeopardy of closing their doors,” Slusser stated in the release. “What we can control is when we distribute our local tax dollars that we’ve collected, so this was an easy decision for me. “
The September property tax distribution was originally scheduled for Sept. 20, the release states.
However, during a recent meeting with Bethalto School District 8 Superintendent Jill Griffin and business manager Barrett Diest, Slusser indicated he was informed that the district was in jeopardy of not making payroll in September due to the state funding crisis.
District 8 was supposed to receive a General State Aid payment of $407,430.91 on Aug. 10, and then a second payment on Aug. 20. Those payments are not expected to be made until the school funding bill is passed.
"Even then, it’s not been made clear as to when the payments will be caught up," the release states.
Griffin was quoted in the release, expressing gratitude for the expedited payments.
"These local property tax dollars will help us stay afloat, as our state is currently not sending the most basic funding necessary for our school doors to stay open, our General State Aid payments, which for Bethalto is about $814,000 a month and $9 million annually," Griffin stated.
State law requires that a county Treasurer distribute property tax dollars at least once every 30 days during the tax cycle.
“There’s nothing in the law that says we can’t distribute dollars more than once every 30 days, so we decided to move up the regularly scheduled September distribution allowing schools to meet their mid-month payroll obligations, and we’ll do a second distribution later in the month to assist in their end-of-month payroll,” Slusser stated.
Slusser stated that after his meeting with Griffin and Diest, he spoke with other school superintendents around the county who also expressed relief with the news of the expedited payments, including Alton School District 11 Superintendent Mark Cappel.
“We’ve been crunching numbers to find a way to stay afloat while the state makes a final decision," Cappel stated.
"This will allow us to make our September payroll obligations and keep our doors open.”
Slusser stated that schools won’t be the only ones benefitting from the early and additional distribution next month.
“All taxing districts in the county will be receiving two distributions in September," Slusser stated. "The school funding crisis triggered this decision, however, we felt it made sense to go ahead and distribute funds to all taxing districts at the same time.”