By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois' regional superintendents are expected to leave the fall veto session with their first paychecks since June, but not with answers to questions about their future.
The state House is moving to pay the state's 44 regional superintendents. Gov. Pat Quinn stripped the $11 million that was supposed to pay the regional superintendents from the state budget in June. Quinn said he wants local taxpayers to pick up the tab, through the Personal Property Replacement Tax fund, or PPRT fund.
Legislation in the House would shift the burden for the regional superintendents and their offices from Illinois' main pot of money, the general revenue fund, to the PPRT fund.
Corporations, trusts and public utilities pay into the PPRT fund to make up for tax dollars that city and county governments would have received at the local level.
State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said that in 2010, the PPRT fund took in $1.4 billion. He wants to give the regional superintendents a tiny portion of that.
"We're talking about 1/10 of 1 percent — $14 million," said Mautino. "It's awkward, if not embarrassing, that these people have not been paid in months."
In addition to pay for the rest of the fiscal year, through the end of June, the regional superintendents will receive back pay and credit for their pensions. That accounts for the difference between the $11 million that Quinn cut from the budget and the $14 million lawmakers are seeking.
However, the legislation, which could be voted on as early as Wednesday, may not end the battle over who should pay the superintendents.
State Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, said Quinn is punching another hole in the budget by taking PPRT dollars and giving them to the regional superintendents.
"Now, to try to shift the costs from the state to local taxing bodies … without really taking a look at the structure and many of the other issues related to the office, I think it's really shortsighted," Eddy said.
Lawmakers may not be happy with using the PPRT fund, but they likely will have no other choice.
The Illinois Municipal League, which lobbies for local governments at the statehouse, opposes any diversion of local PPRT fund dollars.
Joe McCoy, legislative director for the league, said schools receive 60 percent of the PPRT fund's billion-plus dollars each year, leaving cities, counties and park districts to scramble for the rest.
McCoy said it's not proper for "municipal money to be used for the salaries of non-municipal officials as a result of the governor electing not to cover the salaries with state money."
Jackson-Perry County Regional Superintendent of Schools Donna Boros said the superintendents are elected by local voters, but are tasked with enforcing dozens of state requirements, ranging from school bus driver certification to approving new school buildings. She is quick to say that no one else in the state has stepped forward to do the work, or cover the cost.
"It's my understanding that the State Board of Education has commissioned a study of the work that we do, and how much it would cost in the fair market," Boros said. "So we're going to have to look at those kind of issues."
Mary Fergus, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education, did not comment on the study.
Regional Superintendent of Schools in Hancock County John Meixner said his focus is on getting paid this month. He's not looking to wade into constitutional questions.
However, Kelly Kraft, Quinn's budget spokeswoman, said she considers all questions about pay for the regional superintendents settled.
"PPRT is a done deal," said Kraft. "We view using local tax dollars as the long-term solution for funding the regional superintendents."
Lawmakers are not so sure. Eddy said he expects push back from local governments, and said little is final at the statehouse.