Panhandle School Budget Shows Positive Balance

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For the first time in several years, the budget for the Panhandle School District projects a positive balance in the general education fund at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, although Superintendent Aaron Hopper said that could change depending on a number of factors, including state funding.

Hopper presented the FY2020 budget to board members during a public hearing on Monday, Sept. 23, with board members approving the budget later on in their regular monthly meeting that night.

This year, Panhandle started the year with $1.1 million in the general fund and the budget is expecting that number to grow to $1.5 million on June 2020. Hopper said that initially they believed that something was wrong, since the district had been in the red during the budget process each of the last six years, but an additional transportation payment from FY2019 and other factors led to a positive fund balance this year.

Hopper said that new revenues for the district include the federal Idea PreK grant, rent from the ROE alternative school, bonds for the roof project and a $30,000 school improvement grant, which offsets salaries for special education paraprofessionals.

Hopper said that new expenses include the reorganization of Midstate Special Education Cooperative and funding of the special education program and salaries of the special education teachers that go along with the changes.

Board member Dana Pitchford asked if there was a cost difference in the new system and what the district used to pay to Midstate, who then paid the teachers. Hopper said that there are still some unknowns, but the belief is that the costs will be about the same.

Other new expenses include the roof project, the salary of a new Title 1 teacher and the addition of the girls basketball program.

Hopper said that there may be other issues along the way, which might require a budget amendment down the road.

In other business, the board approved the consent agenda, the second reading of board policies, the FFA overnight trip to the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis and a change in the October meeting date from Oct. 21 to Oct. 17.

Hopper also updated the board on three areas in which administration are working on updating curriculum at the schools. One area regarded working on the credit recovery strategy, with a focus on Lincolnwood High School. The second area involved meeting with Morrisonville for the possibility of additional vocational and educational opportunities.

The third area involved a possible partnership with Blackburn College regarding dual credit classes.

Hopper said he would be meeting with the provost on Sept. 26 to discuss the program, which five other districts are also interested in.

In the initial discussions, 24 possible classes were listed for dual credit enrollment, with more possibilities down the road. Pitchford asked about the absence of computer classes on that list. Hopper said that there are some issues with bandwidth and other technology, but they were looking at other possibilities and solutions.

The best case scenario for the program would be video conferencing, which would allow students to remain on campus, but there is a chance that students would have to travel to Carlinville.

Hopper said he was very excited about the prospects of the partnership with Blackburn and he believed the opportunity was right for such a program. He told the board that he hoped to have more information after meeting with Blackburn on Thursday and with the other schools who are interested.

In Superintendent Hopper's report, he stated that he participated in Montgomery County census training, Raymond Grade School students have participated in two fire drills, a tornado drill and a bus evacuation drill since the start of school and the 3:16 Book Study will begin on Sept. 25 after school and will be reviewing the book Help for Billy.

Hopper also noted that the IASB Kaskaskia division will meet in Bunker Hill on Oct. 22 and that parent/teacher conferences will be held after school on Oct. 23-24, with school not in session on Oct. 25.

The meeting would go into closed session at 7:16 p.m. and would reconvene into open session at 8:10 p.m. The only item acted on was to grant a student's early graduation request.

Barring a special meeting, the school board will meet next on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Lincolnwood High School library.

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