1 percent sales tax
The evening began with a video presentation regarding the sales tax.
The video that was shown is the same one that is on the website
of the sales tax task force and can be viewed by following this link:
Robert Bagby addressed a list of frequently asked questions and told
the group that the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln
County Development Partnership and Farm Bureau are all offering their endorsement to the tax.
Bagby along with members of the task force then fielded
questions from the audience.
Questions raised by the audience were quite similar to those raised
when the chamber of commerce hosted a meeting on
LDN covered that meeting in this March 5 article:
Chamber hosts sales tax
The referendum is tagged as a swap between sales tax and property
One of the
primary questions asked was what guarantee voters have that
property tax would decrease and whether all the school districts are making
Bagby said the LCHS board has put in writing that they will lower
their property tax levy if the sales tax is passed. He said West Lincoln-Broadwell has made a similar pledge.
In addition, Mount Pulaski schools have pledged to use half of their
sales tax revenue to lower property taxes, and they want half of it
to do some new construction or renovation on the oldest
sections of their high school facility.
Dr. Mary Ahillen, superintendent of District 27, said there is much work that
needs to be done in the schools she oversees. With the
sales tax in place, this work can be done without raising property
Chester-East Lincoln School plans to use the money first to pay for
a boiler project that has to be done, and then they will work to
reduce property tax levies.
During the meeting the only opposing comments that came out were
from a person who is on a fixed income via Social Security. The
attendee commented that Social Security benefits are not going up
this year, yet increasing sales tax will increase retirees' costs of
In answer to the comment, it was noted that on the average, a home
valued at $75,000 will see a decrease in taxes from LCHS levies
alone of $54 per year. Comparing this with sales tax, a consumer
would have to spend in excess of $5,400 annually to lose out.
It was also noted that the tax does not apply to several items, such
as food, medications, vehicles, farm equipment and more.
Bagby was asked if there are any renovation projects the high
school hopes to do in the future, and the list is pretty long.
The high school is currently paying off a bond for work done
already. Bagby said there are 12 years remaining on that payoff,
and sales tax money will go to that.
However, there are other problems in the school that need to be
addressed. The auditorium needs to be updated, as well as the
computer and science labs. The school needs to work on their media
center, and there are some panels on balcony doors that are posing
potential risk to students.
Transportation funding reduced to near nothing for current
After the sales tax meeting, Bagby moved into a discussion on cuts
of state funding for school transportation costs.
In this school year, LCHS was slated to receive $181,894 to
pay for costs related to regular transportation of students as well
as special education transportation.
He said the state notified the school that they would receive
only 80 percent of that amount. Then the school was notified again that
they would receive only 50 percent of the 80 percent.
Bagby said that finally the school received one payment of $45,696 and
was told that was all they were getting.
He told the audience that LCHS has a long-term strategic plan that
is designed to keep the school running in the black. There is
funding to cover the radical cut in this year's budget, but next
year may be a different story.
Bagby said that word about the decrease in funds has made it out to the
public and rumors are flying around that the school is going to
cut sports programs as well as extracurricular activities in order
to reduce costs.
"We have not made a decision on anything yet," he said. "Do we need to slash
costs? Yes. Do we need to cut down on the number of miles our
vehicles go? Yes."
The Logan County Education Cooperation Committee has talked about
shared busing, but Bagby said they are hearing one common complaint:
Parents of small children don't want their kids on buses with the
On the other hand, Bagby said he hears this all the time: "I had
three different buses go by my house today, with only 10 kids on each one of
"You can't have it both ways," he said.
Bagby said this issue has not been discussed at the board level but
is on the agenda for the April 28 meeting. He noted the April 5
election is going to bring in some new board members, so he does not
anticipate that there will be any kind of vote taken at that
However, he has suggestions on how to address the problem. He said
he wanted to present those to the audience and get their feedback
before discussing them with the board.
He started going through the list: Cut down on field trips; combine the
schools' two special education routes into one; consolidate regular
routes and bus stops; or do cooperative or shared busing with other
[to top of second column]
Bagby noted that in the shared busing suggestion, two school districts
have already said no.
In regard to combining bus routes, Bagby said he has talked to First
Student, the company that provides transportation for LCHS, and they
have said they could work it out to consolidate the two special
education routes as well as consolidating regular routes or stops.
Later he shared a problem that comes with time spent on the bus.
According to Illinois law, children who participate in individualized education plans,
known as IEPs, are prohibited from being on a bus more
than one hour per trip.
Bagby said one route had to be split into two last year because an IEP
student was routinely on the school bus for an hour and five
Other suggestions included eliminating overnight trips, going to a
four-day school week and limiting one-way mileage.
Bagby said several schools have gone to limiting mileage. The
concept is to limit co-curricular trips to within a certain radius of
The school would, for example, pay for transportation to within 75
miles of the school. With any trip that exceeded that limit, the club or
team would be expected to pay for the excess mileage.
He noted that in the Champaign school district this practice is used
successfully with a one-way limit of 90 miles.
Continuing with suggestions, another item on the list was combining boys' and
girls' activities, such as attending co-ed meets for track and field.
Next on the list was eliminating trips for golf, track and field, and
because of their team numbers, swimming. Bagby said the teams would
be allowed to enter state meets and state-qualifier meets.
Bagby had provided a handout outlining the number of male and female
students taking part in each sporting activity at LCHS. The number
of boys on the swim team totaled nine and only seven girls.
As this was discussed in the audience, it came out that the numbers
may be deceptive when looking at the future. The swim team started
the school year with about 20 boys and 20 girls participating.
The numbers dropped after the swim coach position had to be cut in
the recent past due to budget constraints. Bagby said that several
attempts were made to get a current faculty member to take on the
teams, but that had not panned out. Finally one person did come forward and agree to coach the
team. However, the loss of the regular coach and the delay in
replacing that person brought the team member numbers down. It was
speculated that they may go back up in the future.
The last two suggestions on Bagby's list were using the school-owned white activity buses for small groups and, as a last resort,
initiating a transportation or activity fee for co-curricular
Bagby noted that he is not in favor of adding an activity fee. He
said parents are stretched far enough paying for textbooks, the fee
on driver's education and other incidentals.
It was also noted from the audience that adding yet another fee
could prohibit children from low-income families from participating
There was a question from the audience regarding the parking permits
that students have to purchase.
Currently Bagby estimates that of
the 900 students attending LCHS, approximately two-thirds of them drive or
ride with someone else to school.
The parking fee imposed is $25 per parking tag.
member asked what the school did with that money, and Bagby responded
that it goes into the school's general fund. The next question was
whether the money could be used to offset transportation costs, and Bagby
He also noted that the school has a merit program where
students who meet or exceed expectations in the Prairie State
Achievement tests taken in their junior year are rewarded with
As the meeting drew to an end. Bagby asked for more input.
"If you do have further thoughts or ideas, please, please do call
me, stop by and see me, email, whatever," he said.
Contact information for Bagby can be found on the LCHS website under
"staff directory." To access that information, follow this link
[By NILA SMITH]