EFFINGHAM — Area school districts, as well as districts across the state, received an expected surprise from the state this year, receiving all four grant payments on time.
Since 2007, public schools throughout the state have generally received only three of each year’s scheduled categorical grant payments in any given financial year, with the fourth payment usually coming the following year.
While Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office reports this year’s fourth payment is because of $1.3 billion in unexpected revenues this year, this may not be a trend school administrators should depend on.
“We don’t expect that for next year,” said Effingham Superintendent Mark Doan, who admitted he thought the fourth payment of the financial year was a joke when he first heard about it. “If you look at the state’s track record of doing this once in eight years, it doesn’t set a very good precedent.”
While Teutopolis Superintendent Bill Fritcher agreed the state’s irregularity in sending the grant payments, which act as a reimbursement for funds such as transportation, is not setting a precedent, he believes the state should be looking more toward fulfilling its financial obligation.
“When it comes to state finances, there is no precedent,” he said. “They do what they’re going to do. It’s just not reliable. When it comes to finance and what they’re obligated to pay, it shouldn’t be about setting precedents. It should just be about paying what they’re going to pay.”
Altamont Superintendent Jeff Fritchtnitch also was surprised when the district received a fourth payment close to the end of fiscal year 2014, but like other administrators, he’s not expecting to receive a fourth payment next year.
Because of that, he said the fiscal year 2015 budget is being prepared assuming there will be no fourth payment.