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School districts push back on state's budget fix

ILLINOIS (WCIA)--School districts are pushing back on plans that'll force them to pick up a portion of the state's pension debt.

The decision to do it is one of the final pieces to craft a budget for FY19.  The governor and his administration say the massive savings is a last resort to balance the state's checkbook.

During Wednesdays' appropriations hearing, the governor's budget director told lawmakers he's open to suggestions to fill the budget hole but denied concerns that the pension shift will hurt schools or raise property taxes. 

When asked if the administration knew how much the 25% pension shift could cost each school district and university, they no but they're working on it.

Superintendents who also testified Wednesday, shared their own calculations. They say it'll contradict the purpose behind the state's new education funding formula.

"To add the burden of a pension costs shift would neutralize any effect we actually be upside down because our pension burden is about $3 million and the additional funding if you include the tier money is about 2 so we would be upside down about a million dollars in 4 years," says Danville School District Superintendent Dr. Alicia Geddis.

Lawmakers who've disagreed with the plan from the jump say this is poor timing.

The governor presented the plan in February but never submitted a bill to get the job done. The governors' budget director says they knew the issue would be politicized and wanted a fair discussion. But with budget deadline 2 and a half weeks away some democrats say they're only slowing things down. 

"When we're being asked by the Rauner Administration to consider major structural changes to the state budget without specific legislation to back that up that is contributing largely to the nature of the budget discussion we're having today," says Sen. Andy Manar (D) Bunker Hill.

Tuesday, Governor Rauner and the 4 legislative leaders held a third budget meeting. They left with two different outlooks. Republicans say democrats are slow walking by not agreeing to a revenue estimate. Senate president Cullerton accused republicans of playing politics.

Manar says if Rauner wants to this pension shift to happen he needs to file a bill and go through the legislative process. A second meeting to discuss these issues is set for Thursday. 

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