An empty track, and quiet bleachers, it is not a normal occurrence at Stillman Valley High School, but it could soon be a permanent reality. Meridian School District 223 assistant superintendent P.J. Caposey said “We don’t have enough money to continue to operate, even with the conservative and fiscally responsible approach that we have taken over the last few years we continue to have to reduce and reduce and reduce.”
Continuous state budget cuts have left district 223 struggling. “At this point our junior high athletics and activities have been cut which a huge opportunity is lost for our students and the community.” Said Caposey.
State funding is now at 89%, and tax referendums to make up the difference did not pass in the area on multiple occasions. “Increase money in the education fund, which failed, then a 1% sales tax on the ballot two Novembers ago in Ogle County, which failed, and we also tried to sell working cash bonds which was stopped by a petition earlier this year.” Said Caposey
District 223 is going back to the voters again in November, asking for an increase in property taxes. With Illinois residents already paying the highest property taxes in the nation, many locals don't want to pay any more.
“The way the gas prices are going up, and food prices, it is really hard when you are talking about raising taxes, and I feel really bad, because its for the children and they are going to suffer.” Said District 223 employee Rachel Toth.
Caposey said without more money, they will have to lay off more employees and drastically cut back on student activities. “We want to provide these opportunities, but we also have to make sure we have an effective budget so that we can still have a school district that is not financially insolvent in the next 4 to 5 years.”
The district is also hopeful that Senate Bill 16 will pass, which changes the way school districts are funded.