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U46 budget supports full-day kindergarten

With two members objecting, the U46 School District Board of Education approved a $512.1 million budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year which covers millions in costs connected to starting full-day kindergarten.

The budget is for the fiscal year that began June 30. Board members Cody Holt and Jeanette Ward voted against, citing concerns about the impact of the new expenses on taxpayers.

Ward pointed to the inclusion of 54 new teaching positions for full-day kindergarten.

"This expansion places the district in the precarious position of increased reliance on state and federal funding," she said. "Very recent history has proven state funding to be unreliable. When state funding is limited or unavailable, property taxes will need to be increased to pay for this expansion in operations."

Holt's criticism also focused on expenses.

"During the prevailing wage discussion, I pointed out that during the last fiscal year, if we did not have to pay the prevailing wage for construction projects, we could have saved $5 million," he said. "We should be lobbying the state legislature to empower the taxpayers by curbing the excessive power organized labor has in the collective bargaining process and to allow our employees the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not they want to join a union. Many of our surrounding states have done this, and they have great educational opportunities and their local school districts are able to lower the tax burden on their residents."

Board member Sue Kerr noted that budget presentations were thorough in the way they demonstrated no new debt, exhibited balance and detailed the financial strength of the district.

"I realize with the state of Illinois in particular, finances are always uncertain," she said. "But, I think we've got more of a cushion now than we've had in years."

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