Litchfield Board Hears Fogleman Farm Update

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With all board members present, Larry Halleman and Roger Krabbe of Bank and Trust presented the annual Fogleman Farms report at a special board meeting on Thursday evening, March 22, at Litchfield High School.

Krabbe reported on the investment side of the portfolio, notingĀ  an increase in $30,000-$40,000 over last year. He provided a run down of revenues and expenses from the entire trust, including some improvements to one farm, using money from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The total profit of the trust for the year was $180,034, including $166,543 from the farm income. Twenty percent of the farm income is set aside for either farm improvements or the purchase of additional farmground, leaving roughly $146,000 for scholarships. Scobbie asked about last year's totals, and Krabbe said it was about the same. Last year, they awarded 109 scholarships for $1,350 each.

Board member Julie Abel asked about the fee paid to Bank and Trust each year, and Krabbe said the bank gets paid $2,350 to manage the portfolio and a total of $12,569 for the entire trust, including the farmland. Halleman said that was down a bit from last year because the bank receives five percent of the farm profits, which were slightly down.

Board member Meg Wertin asked about an expense for a survey at one farm and questioned why surveys were not done on all three.

Halleman said it was actually some drone footage he had done to check on the damage from the Dakota Access Pipeline company. He added they liked the footage they saw, but that it was the wrong time of year. Wertin said she felt like it would be valuable for the board members to have copies of the photos for their records.

Board President Jennifer Reid asked about copies of the leases with the farmers, and Halleman said he had them. Wertin said she felt like the board should also keep copies of those, and Halleman said they are renewed annually.

Wertin also asked if taxes were higher on the Cass County farm, and Halleman said they were, noting that property taxes were up three percent at all the farms.

Halleman said the contracts were renewed with the farmers in October for the same rent. Wertin asked how the bank kept track of the yields and if the farmers turned in electronic tickets from the elevators. Halleman said he gets yield monitors from the farmers that are typically very accurate.

"It's to their advantage to have them calibrated correctly," he told the board.

Halleman noted the net return per acre was down to $208.20 at the Standard City farm, and said it was due to flex rent that was tried there.

"Flex rent might pay off once every six years, but you're not going to come out on it," he said.

The net return on the Cass County farm was $262.95 per acre and the Macoupin County farm was $254.97 per acre.

Wertin asked if any soil testing had been done recently, and Halleman said it was not done this year, but would be done next year. He noted that pot ash was depleting in them a little. Reid asked who paid for the pot ash when it was applied to the fields, and Halleman said the farmers do.

Wertin also asked about the possibility of tiling, and Halleman said there is definitely a benefit, but it's a long term investment as it typically costs around $700 per acre. Wertin asked if the tenants would be willing to share in the cost, and Halleman said some do, but they like to see a seven-year contract.

The board unanimously approved the report as it was presented during the meeting.

Other Business

In other business, the board unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with the University of Illinois in Springfield to offer a dual credit class in an effort to inspire students to become teachers. Superintendent Debbie Poffinbarger said the class is offered to seniors. For the first year, it will be a one-semester class taught by Dr. Scott Doerr, superintendent of Nokomis schools, and it will meet at 7:30 a.m. at Lincolnwood High School in Raymond. Students are responsible for their own transportation

Poffinbarger said when first asked, seven students showed interest in the class, though so far none had officially signed up. Students from Nokomis, Hillsboro and Lincolnwood have also been invited to participate in the class for three credit hours.

The board also made an update to its policy for exemption of physical education. Board members officially updated the policy in January, but this change now explains the definition of extracurricular athletic programs. Students may request a PE waiver in writing to the building principal, and may receive a waiver for one semester if he or she plays one sport or two semesters for two sports. Marching band is included as a waiver for the fall semester. Reid abstained from the vote.

Information Items

In a few news items, Poffinbarger said it had been a busy week for teachers. She read a letter she sent home to families about school safety and highlighted many of the policies and procedures already in place in Litchfield. She said they are constantly revising it to make sure the safety of the students is the utmost priority.

She also reported on a teachers' in-service held Tuesday, Feb. 20, where they discussed the book, "The Energy Train," that she presented at the strategic vision meeting.

"It's neat to see the staff so energized," she said. "It seems to be a hit, and we are already seeing it funnel down through our kids."

Poffinbarger said the district staff will continue to study it, and that the afternoon session included dealing with students and trauma. Overall, she said it was a good teachers' in-service day.

She reminded the board that she needs two representatives to attend the Mid-State Special Education meeting on Monday, March 26, in Morrisonville, which is the same night as the one percent sales tax committee meeting.

Board member Dennis Scobbie asked if the administrative team was making any plans in case local students choose to participate in the nationwide student walk-out planned by Florida students on March 14. Poffinbarger said that's on the agenda for a meeting with the safety committee, and that she will also be discussing it with the administrators.

Poffinbarger said she would be bringing a safety presentation to the school board at the March meeting. Reid asked if they could invite the public, and Poffinbarger said they could. Principal Andrea Lee also suggested they could plan an additional time to make the presentation to the public, apart from the meeting.

Personnel

Following two and a half hours in closed session, the board approved several personnel items. Board member Jeff Seabaugh left before the end of the meeting, and no action was taken on the administrators' contracts.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved the reclassification of Mark Hunt from a 12-month administrative position as director of student services to a nine-month teaching position, effective June 30. They also unanimously terminated the contract of Kurt Land, a non-certified employee, who worked for the district as the technology director.

In other personnel news, the board approved Hannah Aldridge as support staff for the Make-It program, Chris Bates as high school girls assistant soccer coach, Rob Corso as high school boys assistant baseball coach and Nicholas Simmons as full-time certified high school social studies teacher. All motions passed 6-0, except the approval of Corso, which passed 4-0.

The next meeting of the Litchfield School Board will be held on Thursday, March 15, in the Radius Room at Litchfield High School, beginning at 6 p.m.

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