Friday, February 05, 2010
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LCHS talks to community: Administrators explain why cuts need to be made, solicit input

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[February 05, 2010]  The media center in the Lincoln Community High School library was filled with 80 members of the school's staff, LCHS board members and concerned citizens.

The community meeting was set up to bring into the open the present financial circumstances at Lincoln Community High School and to get input from the community on their thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of the school.

Superintendent Robert Bagby did a slide presentation to show how revenues have dropped in the school district and explained how the board would be considering ways to trim $1 million from the school's annual $7.8 million budget. Bagby assured the group that with such a reduction, the school would be on solid ground for the next five years

Bagby on several occasions said that the school isn't in immediate financial jeopardy and is not on the state's financial warning list. He explained that at current expense levels, LCHS could go on for two years. But neither he nor the school board wants to just sit back and wait for a budget crisis hammer to fall.

"Some schools make things happen, some schools watch things happen, and some schools say, ‘What just happened?'" Bagby said.

Bagby said that he and the school board at LCHS were determined to be proactive and be a school that makes things happen.

One chart offered by Bagby showed that in district tax rates, LCHS is a bargain to local taxpayers.

The 2008 tax rate on property was at $2.07 per $100 of assessed evaluation, compared with $2.21 per $100 in 1995.

In comparison, in 2008 Mount Pulaski was at $4.72 per $100 per assessed evaluation, District 27 at $5.21, Hartsburg-Emden at $5.57 and New Holland-Middletown at $5.76.

Another issue that the superintendent illustrated was that in 2000, property in the district had $3,983,141 of estimated assessed value abated with the tax rate of $1.90890. This equated to $76,034.18 in property taxes abated.

In 2008, the amount of estimated assessed value abated had reached $11,991,465, or $248,657.43 new taxable revenue if economic incentives were not in place.

In all, abated property tax revenue to the district totaled $1,123,426.16 since 2000.

Bagby made it clear the information was for reference and was not a complaint.

"We all want new jobs. We all want our best and brightest students to be able to stay home and come back after college," he said.

Bagby called it a "double-edged sword." He said that everyone wants economic development and it is needed. (See editor's note on enterprise zone and property tax abatement at right.)

Bagby went on to say that the district's financial concerns also have to do with declining enrollment -- from 1,100 students to 866 in the last decade -- and the fact that the state is behind on payments, besides not paying its fair share to begin with. Bagby referred to declining enrollment and revenues as a "double whammy."

He noted Illinois was ranked 48th or 49th in school funding and mentioned that the school just received a state payment that was due last September.

Later, during replies from the audience, Bagby said the school receives an estimated $6,000 in state support per student. A quick calculation shows that for a decline 234 students, this would amount to a loss of nearly $1.5 million in revenue -- $1,404,000, to be exact.

Many considerations will be looked at by the LCHS school board. Included are not replacing retiring school staff, including a retiring administrator, but Bagby stressed it will be the school board that makes the final decisions.

There was no discussion of layoffs or nonrenewal of teaching contracts, and Bagby didn't want it to be thought that just reducing costs by cutting jobs was the only way to go.

"Young teachers buy houses, they have children, they become a part of the community," he said.

He mentioned that creation of new revenue streams was also being looked at by the administration and the school board.

In the second part of the two-hour meeting, Joyce Hubbard, LCHS principal, asked the group to say what they liked about the school, as well as what their concerns were.

Several adults made a case for the importance of extracurricular activities, including fine arts and speech, as well as the trades being taught at the school.

Truancy and the high dropout rate were also concerns, and Hubbard agreed but said she had no ready answer to those problems.

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In conclusion Bagby stressed that it would be the school board, headed by president Rick Hobler, who would be making decisions on budget cuts and that there are many and varied areas being looked at to take $1 million out of the budget.

Hobler told the group that no final decisions have been made on cuts yet and that the board would make decisions that have the least impact on the education of the children.


Past related articles


Editor's note:

It is important for residents to understand that business property taxes do not, and have not decreased due to the enterprise zone. It is not tax revenue that has been lost. Rather, taxes on business property improvements will increase and provide additional revenue to local government, including LCHS, in the future.

The enterprise zone is a state-sponsored program that allows communities to offer specified incentives to help current businesses with expansions or to attract new businesses. It serves as a tool for communities to stimulate growth, which means increased tax revenues through jobs, sales and property taxes, which thereby supports government bodies, gives businesses a running start and improves the business climate for a community.

One incentive in the program is through property tax abatement. Normally when a property is improved, the assessed value goes up, and thereby the taxes are increased.

The abatement is only on the increased assessed value of the property due to improvements.

The property owner continues to pay what was being paid in taxes before the improvements.

So, there is no loss of property taxes to schools or other government due to the enterprise zone.

Five years after each contract begins, a business starts paying 50 percent of taxes on the improved property value, and after 10 years the full amount of new property taxes is being paid.

In 10 years, an enterprise zone property is bringing in significantly more taxes than there would have been without the improvements, plus, there is more business coming into a community, due to the expansion or addition of the business.

The superintendent recognized that there will be increases from property taxes as these properties with improvements begin to pay more into the tax base.

For more information:

Lincoln/Logan County Enterprise Zone
Incentives for Capital Improvements


Send a letter to the editor on what you think the school can do to save money, create revenue or what needs to be preserved:

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