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Illinois passes stopgap budget, schools and road projects funded

State Budget CrisisSPRINGFIELD – The Illinois legislature passed a six-month stopgap budget on Thursday, providing a bit of relief to local schools.

The bills were negotiated between the governor and four legislative leaders and includes money to fund state services for the next six months. The bills also reportedly include a full year of funding for elementary and secondary education, as well as funding for colleges and social service providers.

The agreement also includes some state funding, $215.2 million, for pension payments for Chicago school district teachers. One bill of the legislative package allowed the city of Chicago to increase property taxes to pay for its teacher pensions.

State Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) said the money for Chicago pensions will only be released once a pension reform is agreed upon.

“They will only get that money once there is a signed pension reform bill on the governors desk and no sooner,” said Meier.

Had these bills not been approved, local school districts would have been hard pressed to keep their doors open during the 2016-17 school year. District 203 Superintendent Darcy Benway said at the recent Board of Education meeting that OTHS can keep its doors open until the end of May if it uses all of its reserve funds. According to a report issued by the Illinois State Board of Education released this week, District 90 can last 169 days while Shiloh District 85 can last 226. Central District 104 can reportedly last throughout the entire school year.

The stopgap measure also allows for the Illinois Department of Transportation to continue to work on construction projects after tomorrow. This was a major concern due to roundabout construction at Milburn and Simmons that have caused traffic issues at the intersection of Lincoln and State.

Both the House and Senate passed the legislative package and the bills have been sent to the Governor for approval, which is expected. Today was the last day of the state’s fiscal year.

These bills however should not be confused with a full state budget, meaning lawmakers will have to take up budget discussions again in January, following the November elections.