Panhandle Passes FY21 Budget

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Members of the Panhandle School Board approved the budget for the 2021 financial year on Monday, Sept. 21, after meeting early to discuss the budget.

Superintendent Aaron Hopper presented the upcoming year’s budget, which will begin on July 1.

Hopper said local funds will make up a larger part of the budget due to uncertainty of what state funds will be distributed and what categorical payments will be made.

The equalized assessed valuation (EAV) did go up $273,000, which resulted in a lower tax rate for the district.

Hopper said that the ending fund balance for the education fund is estimated to be approximately $1,190,000, but that number is fluid due to state payments. He said that the district has also averaged $26,000 per month from the county facility sales tax, but since the COVID-19 outbreak, that number has dropped by about $3,000.

Hopper said that there is a slight deficit in the operations and maintenance budget ($280) and tort funds will be drawn down at the end of the year during risk assessment. 

Hopper said that even with the positive balance, the district added staff, including a full-time dean of students and a special education teacher at Farmersville. He also noted a $5,000 donation from Bank and Trust Company for COVID-19 needs and said that an error on the Christian County tax levy will allow the district to recoup $50,000 next year.

The budget measure passed 6-0, with board member Scott Cowdrey absent.

Hopper also gave information on deactivation and reorganizing the district with Morrisonville, which had been discussed at a joint meeting and at previous meetings. 

The Illinois State Board of Education is not doing on-site visits right now, but during a conference call with Morrisonville Superintendent Dave Meiser, a representative told Hopper that there are two incentives available, one for salary and another for $4,000 per teacher.

In order for a reorganization question to be put on the April ballot, board action would have to be taken by Jan. 19, with other paperwork done by the end of January. The next election after that would be the spring of 2022.

Hopper said it was also suggested that the two schools draw up a contract of what students would go where before a question is put on the ballot.

Hopper added that he was hoping to speak with someone from the  Warsaw High School and Nauvoo Colusa Jr. High School districts, which went through deactivation in 2008.

He said he hoped to get information on what worked, what didn’t and what the district’s would do differently. 

Board member Dana Pitchford said that the work to put the question on the April ballot would be a lot for the administrators to do by January and also noted that school questions are generally not great to have on spring ballots.

Hopper said that he agreed a fall ballot might result in a larger turnout, but the next fall election wasn’t until 2022.

Hopper said he would continue to collect information and hoped to talk to Warsaw in the near future.

In other business, the board approved the consent agenda, which included Midstate’s policy and procedures for behavioral interventions. 

Board member Linda Brown asked if the district had staff trained in  restraint reduction and CPI training. Lincolnwood Principal Ken Schuster said that the district has it’s own CPI team and he hoped to have all teachers trained (currently half are) in the techniques to continue to protect the district, the students and themselves.

After the regular agenda, the board entered into closed session at 7:19 p.m. and reconvened at 8:14 p.m. Among the items approved were the resignation of Dan Martin effective Sept. 14, approval a non-certified employee wage increase and approval of two early graduation requests.

Administrative Updates

In the administrator reports, Farmersville Grade School Principal Jana Masten said that the annual district health/life safety walkthrough is Oct. 14, and Farmersville teachers had professional development with the Seesaw application and Clever Academy in September and August.

Masten also went to the Farmersville board meeting on Sept. 8 to discuss the need for a one-way road in front of the school building. She said that the board was receptive and liked the ideas to reduce speeding and make the area around the school as safe as possible.

In Schuster’s report, high school and junior high sports, along with fall CTE and dual credit courses, are underway. The district’s special education department received a donation from the Farmersville Knights of Columbus as well.

Schuster said that the RTI (Response to Intervention) program is being implemented at Lincolnwood High School and has been a positive addition to the educational process.

He said the COVID schedule has gone well, with the teachers hanging tough and the students showing incredible willingness to learn and follow protocols.

In Hopper’s update, he noted he attended a IASA/ISBE digital advisory meeting on Aug. 24, with superintendents from across the state. He also attended the Montgomery County 708 board meeting and the district will receive a $50,000 grant to assist with student support services within the school district.

Hopper also thanked everyone who was a part of the TEAM golf outing and all of the staff, students and families for their efforts during the first month of the school year.

“I am continually amazed by the dedication and the continual efforts to make Panhandle a great place to learn,” Hopper said.

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