On Monday morning, Andy Richmond, the superintendent of the Carbon Cliff-Barstow school district, sounded exasperated over Illinois' school funding impasse.
"Right now, I'd like him to sign anything," Richmond said. "I don't care how much money Chicago gets."
He didn't get his wish. Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Tuesday that he had issued an amendatory veto for SB1, the school funding and reform bill.
The lack of state aid won't stop schools in the Illinois Quad-Cities from opening. In fact, students will return to class in some districts this week. But in administrative offices and at board meetings, school leaders are facing tough choices.
Already, many school districts are conserving cash and holding off purchases. The East Moline district has delayed buying computer servers.
"We're trying to hold on to cash right now," said Kristin Humphries, the superintendent.
Still, the district school board voted Monday night to borrow $1.5 million from its savings account to cover payroll through Sept. 15.
Ordinarily, general state aid payments would go out next week.
Humphries said that if the stalemate persists, the district will consider drawing down another $1.5 million in August. But that would be the last time it could tap that source. The district is talking about the possibility of a bank loan, if needed.
A vocal advocate of SB1, Humphries said Tuesday he was disappointed in the veto.
"I think the governor really swung and missed on this," he said.
In Illinois, property taxes pay for the bulk of K-12 funding. But in some districts, state aid is more vital than in others. In East Moline, general state aid accounts for $9 million of its $32 million budget. And that doesn't count state categorical funding, which pays for things such as special education and transportation costs.
In Carbon Cliff, more than half its budget comes from state coffers. The Carbon Cliff district has room to raise property taxes. But with the Legislature recently approving an income tax increase, raising property taxes would be difficult, Richmond said.
But even in districts that rely less on state aid, bumpy funding from the state has had an impact. Categorical payments were sporadic last year. Some superintendents have said this week they also have reason to doubt whether federal funding, which flows through the state, will come through on time.
Some districts have built up reserves that they'll rely on. Jay Morrow, the superintendent at United Township, said the district can get through the end of the year. Its education and working cash funds had $6 million between them as of the end of June.
"It's a rainy day fund," Morrow said, but he added, "It looks like it's getting ready to pour." The district gets about 27 percent of its funding from the state.
Even with all the uncertainty, districts are readying their classrooms for students. In the Rock Island-Milan District, some schools were having unpack your backpack Tuesday night.
A district spokeswoman said it has enough money to operate in the near term, but if nothing changes, the district may have to turn to borrowing. Earlier, the district had said it could get into the second semester without considering that step. Holly Sparkman, the spokeswoman, said Tuesday that lagging state categorical payments have moved up the time frame.