The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.


As many of you are aware, the State of Illinois is facing a budget crisis of historic proportions.

As of the Governor's budget address of Wednesday, March 10, 2010, Governor Quinn indicated that the state fiscal deficit could exceed $13 Billion dollars by the end of the 2010 fiscal year. Currently the state owes in excess of $5 Billion dollars including more than $1 Billion dollars to Illinois schools. Furthermore, the number of days it takes for the state to pay its bills (from the time the bill is approved for payment to the time the bill is actually paid) has grown to over 120 business days.

How have our elected leaders in Springfield chosen to deal with this situation? Among their actions are:

The results of these measures is that the public schools, universities, healthcare providers, veterans, and senior citizens are all facing monumental challenges in trying to pay their bills, balance budgets, and provide services. As a district, our stakeholders have been supportive of what we have been doing in terms of educating our students. Residents stepped up to support the consolidation of the former Union and Southern school districts and in some cases paid higher property taxes to do so. That's what makes this situation so difficult and frustrating for all of us:we have all paid our property taxes, our income taxes and our sales taxes, etc. We have upheld our responsibilities as citizens of this state but the State of Illinois and our elected officials have neglected theirs.

As a result of the states fiscal mess, school districts around the state are slashing their budgets and making significant reductions in the services they are providing their students and stakeholders. By way of this letter, I want to let you, our stakeholders, know how your board of education and administrative team is dealing with the state's financial crisis.

The good news is we began this fiscal year with approximately $5.34 million dollars in the bank. We have been able to accumulate these fund balances because we did not obligate our consolidation incentive money to recurring expenses, replaced retiring teachers with less experienced teachers if we replaced them at all, did not fill other positions as they have become vacant and have participated in a self funded employee health insurance plan that has had minimal premium increases the last three years.

The largest amount of this total district reserve is found in the Education fund, the fund from which we may pay approximately 75% of our expenditures. Our Education Fund balance at the beginning of the fiscal year was approximately $3.5 million dollars. Our total district budget for FY 2010 shows we are estimating receiving approximately $10.85 million dollars and our estimated expenditures are $10.80 million dollars. At the end of February, I am pleased to report that at this time we are ahead of schedule in terms of budgeted revenue we projected to receive and behind schedule in terms of the actual expenditures we thought we would have to make. That is a good situation to be in but I also have to say that as of Monday, March 22, 2010, the state "owes" us $593,523. You can check our district web site to see how much the state owes us at any given time. We update the figure that is listed each Monday morning.

Obviously, we are very pleased to have such positive fund balances. Because of these fund balances, the board and I do not feel we have to make the drastic cuts to programs that we currently offer our students that you are reading about in the newspapers or hearing about in the media. That does not mean that we are not concerned about our financial future. We are concerned about where we think the state is heading financially both in the short term (the rest of this fiscal year) and the long term (the next three years).

As we make plans for next year, I want our stakeholders to know that we are carefully scrutinizing our current budget and next years budget looking for areas where we can reduce expenditures. But please remember, approximately 80% of our $10.8 million dollar budget is spent on personnel. If we are forced to make drastic cuts, it will undoubtedly be in the area of personnel, which means larger class sizes and fewer direct services for students. Of importance to note is the fact that when we started the district in 2005 we had approximately 1150 students on our sixth day of enrollment. Today we find the district with approximately 925 students enrolled. The decline in the number of students means less financial aid from the state and reduced need for staff members. We are constantly monitoring both to ensure that we are staffing the district at an appropriate level.

As we begin to work on next year's budget, you will begin to see that we are looking at trimming our personnel costs by approximately $200,000. This savings will be obtained by not replacing some teaching positions we no longer need due to our declining enrollment; eliminating a part-time guidance counselor due to declining enrollment, eliminating a high school business teaching position due to declining enrollment, reassigning some current staff who hold an administrative position to part-time teaching positions, carefully examining what we spend for supplies and professional development and by being diligent in monitoring all other expenditures.

On the positive side, I want to remind all of our stakeholders that some very good and positive things are occurring in our district. Consider the following:

I want to thank each of you for the support that you have given our district, our board of education, our staff members and most importantly, our students. With your help, we can continue the great programs we have in place for our students and continue to strive to achieve academic success on a daily basis.

We do have our challenges and we are committed to working hard to improve our school system on a daily basis. We are blessed to have a group of dedicated certified staff members, support staff members and administrators who come to work each day who have as their main purpose doing all they can to ensure that our students achieve academic and personal success on a daily basis.

I want to close by assuring each of you we are closely monitoring the financial situation at the state level. We are closely monitoring our expenditures at the local level and we are making incremental changes to our level of expenditures for next year. Our existing fund balances will carry us through in order that we can keep those staff members in place who make a difference each day in the lives of our students. We will make additional reductions in the future if the need arises. I also want to let each of you know that even though the state's fiscal house is in disarray, our fiscal house is in good order and we intend to keep it that way. We remain committed to doing all that we can to "Provide Opportunities, Expect Excellence" which is the vision we established for our district.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns that you may have about our district. Thank you for your past and future support. It is appreciated.

Yours for Better Schools:

Ralph Grimm