Illinois State Board of Education

For Immediate Release
October 17, 2002
For Information: 217/782-4648

State Board Approves Oversight Panel for Hazel Crest

Will seek to develop emergency financial recovery plan

COLLINSVILLE, October 17, 2002 – The State Board of Education today certified Hazel Crest District 152 1/2 as in financial difficulty and approved creation of a financial oversight panel to try to develop an emergency assistance and recovery plan for the troubled school system.

The State Board took action at its monthly meeting, held this month in Collinsville.

“This is a critical, unprecedented situation,” said State Superintendent of Education Robert E. Schiller. “The district is, for all intents and purposes, broke. It’s going to take cooperation among many parties to find the solution that is best for the kids who attend the Hazel Crest schools.”

The school board in District 152 ½, which has an enrollment of 1,200 students, voted October 7 to ask the State Board to create the oversight panel. The district is in the midst of a major financial crisis, according to its financial consultant, Robert Grossi.

Based on current fund balances, Grossi said, the district will run out of money in about 60 days.

The district has two referenda on the ballot November 5, and will attempt to issue tax anticipation warrants in early November. Even if all those tactics are successful, the district will still come up short of the $5 million it needs to remain solvent through the end of the fiscal year next June 30.

Under state law, the oversight panel created today is empowered to provide oversight and approval for additional borrowing by the district, as well as development of an emergency recovery plan.

Under the law, the panel can recommend an Emergency Financial Assistance grant from the state of $270,000 and an Emergency Financial Assistance Loan of $1.08 million. The loan would have to be approved by the General Assembly and Governor.

In addition, the panel could recommend special legislation – such as creation of a School Finance Authority or even dissolution of the district -- to address the situation.

State Superintendent Robert E. Schiller has 10 days to appoint the three-member oversight panel.