Bloomington Newspaper Slams Schools for Abusing Tort Tax

Published July 1, 2005

The Bloomington Pantagraph on May 15 published an editorial in response to the Illinois Business RoundTable study of the use of tort immunity taxes to fund operating areas of public school budgets. The newspaper made the following points:

1. Using uncapped liability tax funds to offset expenses heretofore paid from school funds with maximum tax rates is another way for Illinois schools to bypass voter wishes.

2. It is a questionable practice going on in a fourth of the state’s school districts. By shifting expenses to the unlimited tort immunity tax, school districts free up money in other funds that may be at their maximum tax rates. That allows more spending in those funds without asking voters to approve a tax rate increase.

3. It’s obvious that some school districts are abusing the tax. An example would be a district that used the fund to pay to replace sidewalks, arguing that because someone could fall on a broken sidewalk and sue, the spending prevented a potential lawsuit. Under this reasoning, almost anything that could be perceived as preventing a lawsuit is justified.

4. If a clear definition of what tort immunity taxes can be spent on doesn’t surface from the pending lawsuits, the state legislature needs to meet with school administrators to come up with parameters that accommodate reasonable expenses but stop abuses.

John W. Skorburg