One of the top priorities of people in choosing where they will live
is the schools. They consider the quality of education their
children will receive, and if buying the house, how much the
property taxes will be.
Two weeks ago a study was released that examined the condition of
our schools and the possibility of consolidating a couple or all of
the schools into one district unit.
The school districts evaluated were Lincoln Community High School
and its feeder school districts: five Lincoln elementary schools and
Lincoln Junior High, Chester-East Lincoln-Beason, West Lincoln-Broadwell
and New Holland-Middletown.
A team of education experts and past school administrators, Dr.
William H. Phillips, Dr. Leonard R. Bogle and Dr. Scott L. Day from
Consulting and Resource Group in Champaign, performed the study. The
team has worked together on numerous consolidation studies. The
information they compiled is almost 300 pages. On June 27, they
presented a summary of the study to an audience composed mostly of
Each school was evaluated for numbers such as current and
anticipated enrollment, number of teachers, numbers and type of
support staff. The types of curriculum offered, extra programs,
various costs, technology, structures and their condition, current
capacity, and other significant factors were also assessed.
Similarities and differences and how a consolidation might be
beneficial were taken into consideration.
It was observed that there are some differences in curriculum at
the K-8 level. It would be beneficial to students coming into the
high school if they were "on the same page," Phillips said. He also
observed that all the districts were doing well in this area and
that there is some sharing of programs.
In consolidation, teacher salaries would be equalized to the
highest salary base (high school teachers make the most here and
Some overlapping services might be combined, reducing support
personnel. There is currently a shortage of nurses.
Special education programs are good and would remain the same.
While some positions would be eliminated, there might be a need
to add a position or more, such as an assistant superintendent for
the added operation of combined districts.
There would be a slight increase in transportation costs. Some
students would be bused to partake in the increased optional
programming. This is estimated to result in little change, with LCHS
currently at $3.92 per student and C-EL (the high) at $3.94. There
are various transportation rental, lease and owner agreements that
would need to be addressed.
Another point of interest that applies here in Lincoln, where two
new schools were just built, is who pays for the bond issue. He said
that where there is a school district that has a bond issue, the
people living in those districts continue to pay on those bonds and
interest until it is complete. That burden does not get shifted to
share with any other combined school district property owners under
any of the reorganization options.
Phillips reviewed the 11 options for reorganization combinations
of school districts, the advantages and disadvantages. He said that
their group is required to make a recommendation based on the
findings of the study. However, he emphasized that there is no
requirement for any school district to do something based on their
The decision is up to the school districts and the people who
live here to discuss.
Phillips said that their group is recommending the optional
elementary unit district. In this situation the high school and any
combination of elementary districts may go together to form a unit.
This is accomplished by taking it to a vote from all districts.
If the high school said yes and any one or more elementary
districts said yes, they would go together to make a new unit, and
it would be K-12.
The other districts would remain K-8.
[to top of second column]
The new unit would have a board that would set the tax rate for the
K-12 unit. They would also set the 9-12 tax rates for the K-8
districts that are outside the unit.
Under this plan the property of the elementary district does not
have to be contiguous to the high school district.
When you switch
from dual -- as we have now between Lincoln Community High School
and the feeder schools -- to units, it will change the property tax
rate for the districts involved in the change.
Each property owner now pays two tax rates, one for K-8 and one
for 9-12. You will usually pay more in this combination than in unit
districts, he said.
If you look at property tax bills, there are several school
Current "total tax" rates per student per year:
When looking at these figures, Phillips said, keep in mind that
the smaller the school district, the more it costs to educate a
student. That explains New Holland-Middletown being the highest
An unseen drawback when you switch from dual districts to units
is that you will lose taxing power, he said. Meaning you will not be
able to generate as much tax money together as you do separately.
This is because, as smaller districts, each district is allowed to
levy a 5-cent tax each year, and that is limited to each unit after
a combination. So there are less tax funds that can be levied each
Another pertinent figure looked at was how much was left on the
books in the education fund of each school at the end of each year.
He said that the figure for Lincoln elementary schools was getting a
little smaller, but they're pretty healthy.
"When you compare these kinds of numbers to most school districts
in Illinois, these districts are well-managed, well-funded; they're
in good shape," Phillips said.
Also looked at was the financial profile, a report that each
school gets from the state each year. All Lincoln elementary schools
received "recognition status," so to speak; they are all getting
A's. LCHS is just one step below, at about a B, he said
Repeatedly, in the details of the analysis, each expert assessed
each of the Lincoln schools as being in pretty good shape in all
It was often pointed out that these schools are doing so well
that they are in the upper minority of schools across the state.
"Normally, districts in Illinois are under some stress. I think 85
percent of the school districts are in deficit spending," Phillips
said. They are faced with either cutting programs or making more
money, he added.
The future financial bottom line takes careful consideration. The
state offers incentives to schools consolidating. Phillips
calculated that the combined districts could receive about
$6,461,248 paid out from the state over a four-year period. The
funds would help cover the extra costs of equalizing teacher
salaries, transportation increases and some of the other costs of
the transition. Keep in mind the state is slow to pay schools, but
they do pay, he said.
But where the funds for the increased costs would come from in
the future would be one of the major underlying issues, Phillips
cautioned. "You're going to have to account for these increases
after four years," he said.
The matter is on the agenda for discussion at the Lincoln
Community High School board meeting tonight (Monday) at 7 at the
You can view the study and see statistical data online at the
Lincoln Community High School site,