In a relatively brief meeting, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night gave final approval for the district’s 2020 property tax levy proposal for taxes to be collected in 2021. The proposed levy totals $3,418,604, compared with last year’s total extension of $3,128,969.
Because the levy totals more than 105 percent of the previous year’s extension, the action to approve the levy was preceded by a legally mandated Truth in Taxation hearing. The hearing, however, basically was a formality since no members of the public appeared to comment or ask questions. Supt. Shane Owsley said the approved levy is unchanged from the presentation he presented to the board last month. That PowerPoint presentation remains available for viewing on the district’s website.
The proposed levy calls for a levy of $1,490,071 for Education, compared with last year’s extension of $1,316,236; $385,160 for Operations and Maintenance, compared with last year’s extension of $340,227; $154,567 for Transportation, compared with last year’s extension of $136,535; $36,083 for Working Cash, compared with last year’s extension of $31,874; $103,828 for Illinois Municipal Retirement Funds, compared with last year’s extension of $91,715; $93,924 for Social Security, compared with last year’s extension of $82,967; $206,841 for Tort Liability, compared with last year’s extension of $182,711; $28,871 for Special Education, compared with last year’s extension of $25,502; and $919,259 for Bond and Interest, compared with last year’s extension of $921,206.
Macoupin County taxing bodies are subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) which limits increases in the tax levy to nor more than five percent or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. This year’s expected CPI is 2.3 percent. The Macoupin County Clerk is responsible to setting the tax rate (the percentage that must be applied to the district’s total equalized assessed valuation to generate the amounts levied by the school board). The County Clerk can reduce the proposed levy to bring it into compliance with PTELL, but he cannot increase the levy beyond the amount requested by the board. For that reason, most taxing bodies set the levy in excess of what they actually expect to realize in property tax revenue.
Given the multiple factors affecting the levy and the extension, Owsley estimated the proposed levy of $3,418,605 will generate an extension of about $3,200,936 next year.
The board met for 90 minutes in executive session to discuss personnel issues and other issues. Upon returning to open session, Supt. Owsley announced the board would defer action on updating job descriptions for non-certificated staff.
Board members unanimously voted to hire Elizabeth Thackery as a seventh-grade volleyball coach.
VOCATIONAL CLASSROOM EXPANSION UPDATE
Supt. Owsley reported to the board that site preparation for the vocational education classroom expansion is nearing completion in anticipation of the steel building addition being delivered in February. A gas line relocation approved by the board last month has been completed, and a water line to supply the building’s sprinkler system has been installed. Footing and foundation walls should be poured this week, but some coring and rock installation may be required before pouring concrete because of wet soil conditions.
Work on the site is expected to continue through the winter break and work on floor forms should begin soon, according to Owsley.
As the end of 2020 looms, Supt. Owsley thanked teachers, staff and board members for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our administrative team worked extremely long hours,” Owsley said, to devise strategies for remote learning during the pandemic. “Our teachers completely changed the way they teach.” He also thanked the technology team for implementing plans to put Chromebooks into the hands of all CUSD 7 students to facilitate remote learning strategies.
Additionally, Owsley thanked local students and families for their support and cooperation. “Not only did our teachers have to change the way they teach,” he said, “our students had to learn a whole new way of learning.”
Owsley reported receiving a letter from former Supt. Tieman announcing a donation of $600 to the high school girls and boys track program. Tieman said that upon his retirement, he received a gift of $200 from board member and former football coach Don Dobrino and his wife, Cookie, to be donated to the charity of Tieman’s choice. Tieman said he and his wife, Marti, decided to match the donation with $200, as did Marti Tieman’s sibling, Scott Sheridan and wife, Jane, for a total of $600. Together, the family asked to donate the money to the track program in memory of Marti and Scott’s grandfather, George “Red” Cavanaugh, a longtime supporter of CUSD 7 athletics and tract meet starter.
High School Principal Jill Rosentreter reported that the IBCA recently recognized the Gillespie High School boys basketball team with the 2019-20 Division 6 All State Academic Award. The team placed third out of 184 schools.
All three principals reported that as many as 20 students a day are taking advantage of face-to-face consultations with teachers to assist them with online learning. As a result, the principals said they are seeing significant improvement in grades for students participating in online learning.
Rosentreter also indicated the administrative team is actively working on strategies to address not only academic needs for online students but also emotional needs for students who find themselves isolated from friends and peers during the pandemic.
Owsley reported that the administrative staff generated enough donations to provide Christmas needs for three district families in need. He said he and building principles delivered food and gifts to those families last week. He said, like Tieman had reported to the board in the past, delivering food and presents to needy families is one of the most rewarding experiences of his service as Superintendent. He said he asked building principles to accompany him this year so they could also experience the emotional gratification associated with the annual distribution.
In other action, the board approved the transfer of funds from the district’s School Facilities Sales Tax Fund to the Bond and Interest Fund. The action is in compliance with the board’s commitment to use 25 percent of the fund to pay down bonds still outstanding for the BenGil Elementary School.