Members of the Community Unit Community School District 7 Board of Education voted Monday night to commit to a five-year lease for three new school buses, agreed to make middle school softball a school-funded sport and approved an amended 2021-22 district budget.
With an aging bus fleet threatening to siphon money for repairs, the board accepted Supt. Shane Owsley’s recommendation to enter into a five-year lease agreement with Central State Bus for three new school buses. Central State Bus offered the lower of two bids received, offering a price of $26,928 per bus. At the end of the five-year lease, the district will have the option of keeping the vehicles or returning them.
Owsley said the district will start receiving state reimbursements for depreciation starting with the second year of the lease. Over the life of the lease, he estimated the district will receive reimbursements for 60 to 75 percent of the contract’s $84,000 total cost.
Owsley said the lease agreement is the first step toward achieving his goal of having no buses in the fleet that are more than five years old.
GMS SOFTBALL PROGRAM
On a motion by Bill Carter, seconded by Board President Mark Hayes, the board unanimously approved a carefully worded motion to transition middle school softball from a parent-funded sport to a school-funded program. Parents presented the proposal to the board last month, providing an estimate of $10,000 per year for the program’s cost.
The motion calls for the district to fund middle school softball as a “feeder program for the funded high school softball program with the stipulation” that existing funds held by the parents group be turned over to the school district and that the parents group continue to host and sponsor an annual tournament with proceeds of the tournament going to the district.
Shannon Wright, a member of the parents group, said the group has $9,000 to $10,000 in funding to transfer to the school district—enough to cover one full season of the program. Jim Matesa, another parent, advocated for using some of that money for improvements at the school’s ball diamond. He said the facility needs a water line, a ramp for its storage shed, and money to create a concession stand.
Hayes told Matesa that funding for those projects could be an issue. When the parents group funds are transferred to the district, he suggested they would be spent as intended for the program.
“My question is, do you want the program or do you want these projects?” Hayes asked.
Hayes suggested that Matesa get estimates for each of the projects he wanted done and let the board consider them as an issue separate from the middle school softball transition.
The board approved an amended budget for the fiscal year ending on June 30 to reflect revenue and expenditures that were not anticipated when the budget was initially approved in September last year. The amended budget is a legal requirement, according to Owsley, to ensure the budget reflects actual revenues and expenditures during the fiscal year.
The amendments are limited to three specific funds—Education, Building Operations and Maintenance, and IMRF. During a brief public hearing prior to the meeting, Owsley pointed out the district had overspent budgeted amounts in Operations and Maintenance, and IMRF. Expenditures in the Education Fund have approached the budgeted amount, making it advisable to add a buffer on the revenue side. The additional revenues came from COVID-19 relief payments from the federal government during the fiscal year. Further complicating the budget, an additional $627,631.33 in state aid payments have been allocated but have not been processed by the Comptroller. Owsley said it was unknown as of Monday night whether or not those payments would arrive before June 30 or after June 30 in which can the money would be considered revenue for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The amended budget increases estimate revenue for the Education Fund from $13,370,416 to $14,414,150. As of Monday night, the district had spent $12,547,975.50 from the Education Fund. The amended budget adds a $500,000 buffer by increasing budgeted expenditures from $13,258,230 to $13,751,326.
Current expenditures from the Operations and Maintenance Fund are $709,781.32, compared with budgeted expenses of $691,795. Owsley said the additional expenditures were due to underestimated costs for water and sewer, and contractural services for heating/cooling repairs, plumbing and other issues. To account for the discrepancy, the new budget sets expenditures at $831,765.
Expenditures from the IMRF and Social Security fund are $441,994.07, compared with a budgeted amount of $432,642. To cover the shortfall, the new budget increases the expenditure line item to $497,292. Revenue is increased from an estimate of $432,733 to $464,403.
Approval of the amended budget clears out the 2021-22 budget year and paves the way for the board to work on a new budget for 2022-23. The board is expected to place a new budget on file for public review during its August meeting, with an eye toward approving the budget in September.
Following an executive session, the board voted to accept “with regret” the resignation for purposes of retirement of long-serving district custodian Ray Mansholt, effective Oct. 10.
“Ray has been with our district for 40 years,” Hayes noted. “I know he is very emotional about retiring.”
The board also voted unanimously to hire Dalton Barnes as a high school social science/physical education teacher for the 2022-23 school year. Board members also voted unanimously to hire Alec Jasper as a volunteer assistant football coach and Alexis Lumpkey as a volunteer assistant middle school/high school cheer coach.
The board agreed to post a position for an assistant principal position who will be assigned to “float” from building to building. The board also posted a vacancy for an elementary school teaching position.
The board voted unanimously to rehire the following spring sport coaches: Robin Niemeyer, head women’s soccer coach; Paige Niemeyer, women’s assistant soccer coach; Jeremy Smith, head mens baseball coach; Tim Wargo, paid assistant baseball coach; Adam Tallman and Dan Smith, volunteer assistant baseball coaches; Michelle Smith, head softball coach; Jim Matesa, paid assistant softball coach; Joe Kelly volunteer assistant softball coach; Mike Bertagnolli, head men’s track and field coach; Jessica Kelley, head women’s track and field coach; Jacob West, assistant track and field coach; Jay Weber, Alex Ottersburg and Jack Burns, volunteer assistant track and field coaches; Jacob Killebrew, head bass fishing coach; Ryan Bussmann and JQ Halteman, volunteer assistant bass fishing coaches; Jill Strole, middle school track coach; Chase Peterson, middle school track coach; Alex Ottersburg, assistant volunteer middle school track coach; and Jay Weber, assistant volunteer middle school track coach.
In other action, the board:
- Agreed to contract with Blue Cross-Blue Shield to provide employee health insurance for the coming year with a premium increase of 2.5 percent. Owsley said the company originally proposed a six percent increase but came back with a better price when the district asked it to reconsider its bid.
- Chose Prairie Farms Dairy to provide milk for the district’s food service programs, and selected Kohl’s Wholesale, Quincy, to provide bread and other foods.
- Approved a consolidated district plan which consolidates a number of documents to facilitate easier application for federal grant funds.
- Approved a language change in the teacher evaluation policy giving administrators an option to evaluate teachers with a proficient or better rating every three years instead of every two years.