Effingham Daily News
While Unit 50 school officials have expressed a need to cut about $1 million from next year’s budget, respondents to a survey recently distributed to district residents are urging caution.
“There’s a lot of caveats in the comments,” said board member Gene Niemerg.
More than 1,000 respondents completed the survey earlier this month, according to information presented at Tuesday’s Unit 50 Board of Education meeting. Survey questions were designed to solicit local input on what should be cut.
Solid majorities favored cuts that would have moderate impact. For example, 538 respondents, or 54 percent, favored cutting 20 percent from the budgets of each extra-curricular and athletic activity, while only 11 percent favored doing away with all activities.
Moreover, 644 respondents, or 69 percent, said closing Teutopolis Junior High School should not be an option at this time. Another 25 percent favored closing the junior high and moving seventh and eighth graders to the grade school, while another 16 percent favored moving students from the closed junior high to Teutopolis High School.
Survey respondents also heavily favored increasing class sizes to save academic elective programs. While 73 percent of respondents favored increasing class sizes to reduce teaching positions, only 15 percent favored eliminating all but core academic subjects.
Twenty-five percent favored eliminating band at all three schools, while another 14 percent favored eliminating high school vocational classes.
A solid majority of 57 percent took a dim view of any property tax increase, while only 25 percent favored a modest tax increase and an even lower group of 7 percent favored a larger increase.
Board president Marty Siemer said he would like board members to look over the survey results before the board’s Dec. 17 meeting.
“I think we need some time to digest this,” Siemer said.
But board member Jim Buhnerkempe said the board shouldn’t take too much time on the survey.
“We need to take a look at these numbers and move down the road in the next four weeks,” Buhnerkempe said, adding that the board needed to determine how many classrooms were open at the grade and high schools before closing the junior high.
Niemerg noted that a plan was in place to restructure the junior high without closing the building.
Siemer said the board may schedule a special meeting to discuss survey results.
Board members and administrators agreed Monday that any cuts will be painful.
“At what point does it become too much?” Siemer asked.
“The analysis is going to be what can we do and is it worth it?” Buhnerkempe said.
Also Monday, the board approved a tentative tax levy. Fritcher said the proposed levy of $3,762,954 would be an 8.7 percent increase over last year’s levy. He added that the expected increase in property value for the district justified the increase.
“We’re not controlling the value of the property,” he said. “We’re just trying to capture what that value is.”
School districts are effectively mandated to collect all they can from local property owners or risk losing a portion of their state aid. Moreover, a levy increase does not necessarily mean that property tax rates will increase because there is often more property owners in place to share the burden.
A truth-in-taxation hearing is set for 7:15 p.m. Dec. 17.
In other action Monday, the board agreed to move forward on roofing projects at the high school and adjacent bus garage. The board accepted a bid from Swingler Construction in Teutopolis for $47,491, while hiring Top Quality Roofing of Mt. Zion to replace the roof over the high school band room for $41,700.
Also Monday, the board:
• Hired Anita Deters, Christy Repking and Carla Deters to work part-time in the grade school cafeteria.
• Accepted resignation from teacher aides Kim Bloemer and Brooks Swinderman, and high school fall play director Kevin Niemerg.
• Approved Kelsey Rubin, Tiffany Hostettler, Olivia Klaus and John O’Dell as student teachers for the second semester of this school year.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.