The Illinois State Board of Education has released the 2014 Financial Profile for school districts, including the 14 public school districts in Bureau County.
Eight of those local school districts received the highest “recognition” rating, followed by three with a “financial review” rating, two with “early warning” ratings, and one with the lowest “watch” rating.
Statewide, 560 of approximately 830 school districts achieved the highest financial recognition rating, which is down slightly from the year before. Forty-nine districts statewide received the lowest financial watch rating.
Following the announcement, Illinois State Superintendent Christopher Koch said the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has been monitoring the financial condition of school districts since the 1980s. The overall goal of the financial profile is to objectively assess the financial health of school districts in order for the public to gain a better understanding of where their schools rank in comparison to others, he said.
With the state’s budget in crisis, schools have been getting less money than they are entitled to receive under the formula used to distribute funds to schools, Koch said. At the same time, costs are going up, putting pressure on schools to make cuts or deal with red ink, he said.
One area school receiving the early warning financial rating was Princeton Elementary School District. That rating came as no surprise to PES Superintendent Tim Smith or the PES Board based on the audit report received last fall.
Initially, the whole purpose of the financial profile was to show legislators there was a funding crisis in Illinois as it relates to schools, Smith said. There are so many schools which are in need of money and Princeton Elementary is one of them. He has talked about failure of revenue for the district for a long time and how state funding has diminished. Also, the equalized assessed valuation growth has been steady, if not a little behind, as a result of the economy, he said.
He and the school board are trying to address the current deficit spending by cutting expenses, Smith said. The district had cuts last year, and there are another two years of financial cuts planned to the tune of about $1.2 million.
“The problem is state funding continues to diminish, and our cuts are not having nearly the impact we’d like,” Smith said.
In his opinion, the financial profile rating is a bit skewed because the rating formula does not give consideration to borrowed money by some school districts, which makes it appear those districts have more cash on hand, but it’s borrowed money, Smith said.
On Thursday, Regional Superintendent of Schools Angie Zarvell said there are many different factors which could affect financial rating, such as delayed payments from the state and decreasing general state aide. Those factors will be different from school district to school district. The financial profile of a district should not be considered a reflection of academic achievements, she said.
As regional superintendent, she’s sat in many meetings with administrators and the talk is frequently on how school districts can do more together cooperatively and do more for their students while facing less revenue, Zarvell said. Administrators and school boards take the district’s finances very seriously, are very conscious of finding efficiency wherever they can and want to do the best with what they have, she said.
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How Bureau County schools stack up
Bureau Valley 2013 Review 2012 Watch
Cherry 2013 Early Warning 2012 Early Warning
Dalzell 2013 Recognition 2012 Recognition
DePue 2013 Review 2012 Recognition
Hall 2013 Review 2012 Review
LaMoille 2013 Recognition 2012 Recognition
Ladd 2013 Recognition 2012 Recognition
Leepertown 2012 Watch 2013-school district was dissolved.
Malden 2013 Recognition 2012 Review
Ohio Grade School 2013 Recognition 2012 Recognition
Ohio High School 2013 Recognition 2012 Recognition
Princeton Elementary 2013 Early Warning 2012 Early Warning
Princeton High School 2013 Recognition 2012 Recognition
Spring Valley Elementary 2013 Recognition 2012 Recognition
• Recognition: the highest category of financial strength, receiving a score of 3.54-4.0 on a 4.0 scale.
These districts require little or no review or involvement by ISBE unless requested by the district.
• Financial review: Those schools receiving scores of 3.08 to 3.53 will be given a limited review by ISBE, but will be monitored for potential downward trends.
• Early warning: Those schools receiving a a score of 2.62 to 3.07 will be monitored more closely by the ISBE and will be offered proactive technical assistance.
• Financial watch: Those schools receiving scores of 1.00 to 2.61 will be monitored very closely by the ISBE with the offer of technical assistance including, but not limited to, financial projections, cash flow analysis, budgeting, personnel inventories and enrollment projections.
Source: Illinois State Board of Education.