the school board
We, the School Board, voted unanimously to ask you, the patrons, to approve a $239,000 supplemental levy for next year. We know that we have some of the best schools in the State and in the Nation. We would like very much to keep them that way.
You should know a couple of things before going to the polls on the 17th of May. First, this levy is less than last year’s levy of $263,000. This will be a savings of $.24 per taxable $1,000 from what you are paying in property taxes this year. Second, we have held the budgets constant and/or reduced them each year for the past 5 years. We have reduced the faculty, administration and staff in our school district. Our teachers, administrators, and staff have not had an increase in their salary schedules for over 5 years. We don’t want to bore you with figures, but our proposed general fund budget for next year is $3,168,592, thirty-five thousand dollars less than the current year. Our expenditures for 2000-2001 were $3,349,143. In spite of inflation, we have never reached that amount again. Last years budget was $3,203,000, which was $78,000 less than the year before. You get the idea.
We are honestly trying to provide this community with the best possible schools, at the best possible price. We will be having a budget workshop next Tuesday evening, May 10th. We invite you to come and review it with us and to ask as many questions about the proposed levy as you would like. We think you will see that we have cut to the bone and that the budget we are proposing is about as small as it could possibly be and still give our students a quality education. We will be meeting in the elementary cafeteria at 7:00 pm.
We opted to have a work session rather than a public meeting, so as to be available to answer any and all questions about the budget. Our hope is that this will bring more people out and we will be able to provide better information. Please join us, and then vote yes on the levy on May 17th.
John Nida, Chairman
Roy Schumacher, Vice Chairman
Dear Patrons of School Dist #242
As a first year board member I want to share a few insights I have learned regarding the financing our school system.
First and foremost, as a public institution we are required and strive to provide quality education for all students in our district, within State and Federal guidelines using the funding provided. These funds come primarily from specified endowments, grants, local taxation on property values (called M&O funds) and a funding equalization formula from the state based on the number of students attending Prairie, broken down into units. These units determine the total dollars given by the state to finance our district. For each student attending Prairie we receive approximately $5,000. The fewer children in our district the fewer dollars available for our school system.
That said, we then deal with 18 different funding categories such as Title funds, Technology funds, Preschool funds, Drug Free funds, Food Services funds, Plant Facility funds and the General fund. The majority of these categories are “in and out” funds –meaning the government requires certain programs be made available for our children and then it provides funding specific to those programs. For example, our Special Ed program, our Center for Discovery Program, our Breakfast/Food Services Program, our Drug Free Program and our Plant Facility funds are all provided by sources that require us to use those funds specifically for their designated program. They can not be spent elsewhere without jeopardizing the loss of the funds for non-compliance. These categories basically support themselves.
So, why do we need a levy? The answer is the General fund. This is the one area that we as a board have limited control over. Under the heading of General fund we pay salaries, wages, benefits, liability insurance, equipment, supplies, utilities, maintenance, bus expenses, textbooks and other necessities. The state does reimburse us for a portion of these expenses based on the number of units designated for our district. The salaries we pay our teachers are set and paid for by the state. The state will not compensate us for wages over their set amount and will reduce their payments to us by a like amount if we are under the set wage. Teacher salaries in our district have not increased for the last 5 years due to the tight budgets. We receive partial funding for bus expenses, benefits and insurances, but the remaining balance we need to somehow provide. We have little to no control over utilities, rising expenses in maintenance, equipment, supplies and textbooks.
A key problem for our district is the declining number of students in our system. Many of the class sizes are almost too large for one teacher but not large enough for state funding of two teachers. We have tried to reduce expenses by decreasing support staff, consolidating and cross training existing staff and utilizing grant money to provide support in extra large class rooms. We even have one energetic teacher stepping up to the plate by teaching two grades in her classroom next fall and she’s enthusiastic about the benefits for all the students. We’ve reduced insurance costs to the district through the insurance buy down program instituted 1½ years ago. We continue to use the designated plant facilities funds to weatherize our buildings and replace inefficient heating systems in an effort to reduce utility expenses. We are trying to use the funds entrusted to us as effectively as possible but the fact is we continue to fall short.
In essence, we are a publicly financed institution with little control over the finances sent to us. We’ve tried to create a strong learning environment using the existing funds with dedicated teachers and staff, but unless the legislature changes it’s funding formula or we have an influx of students, I’m afraid the necessity of a levy will continue. We have a great community and a strong vibrant school system for our children. I encourage you to become involved – visit your child’s school, interact with the teachers – they welcome your interest. And please consider the upcoming levy. If you have questions, visit with us at the work session set for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10th, at the Elementary cafeteria. The board and the administration will be available. Thanks for your support.
Della Gehring, Zone 4