School Consolidation Stalls

April  28, 2014

      The effort to consolidate four school districts in the Illinois Quad Cities has ground to a halt. After a couple years of study and discussion, backers of a merger of United Township, Colona, Silvis, and East Moline have decided to postpone a referendum.

      U-T superintendent Jay Morrow says the reason is the state's "uncertain" financial situation. State aid is already pro-rated at 89 per cent of what it's supposed to be, and if the increase in the income tax is not extended, it could drop even lower. 

      "It's all tied to that income tax because that's such a significant revenue stream. If the income tax goes away, there's $7 billion ouf of the state coffers that won't be used for anything."

       And the loss of that much revenue could mean big cuts in the incentives Illinois pays to consolidating school districts.

      Doctor Morrow says another huge uncertainty is pensions - if the recent reform law is rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court, local districts would probably have to increase their contributions significantly to make up for lower state support. 

      "School districts are experiencing just what businesses are experiencing and complaining about. It's difficult to do business without stability at the state level."

       The four districts would have had to approve a referendum for the November ballot within about two weeks, but it could be months from now, or later, before decisions are made about the Illinois income tax, pensions, and other issues.

       Last week, the Colona and Silvis school boards voted to postpone the referendum, and tonight the U-T and East Moline boards may follow suit.