Before the presentations, Superintendent Jennifer Hamm gave an
update on the norovirus in the school. Hamm said that after a couple
of days, the number of cases still being reported by students was
under 10. Hamm also said that the school had received a lot of
positive feedback as to the swift decision to close the school for a
day to halt the spreading of the virus to more students.
the topic of emergencies, Hamm also said that CEL has set up a new
emergency email address for parents attempting to reach the school
in an emergency. The new address is
Tentative levy presentation
The first presentation was given by
Hamm, and it was on the subject of the proposed tax levy for 2012.
She began with a quick summary of how the tax levy process works:
In November, the
proposed levy is presented to the board of education.
In December, the
levy is passed by the board after any discussion and given to
the county clerk's office.
April, the county clerk releases the equalized assessed
valuation, or EVA, and the extension for the next fiscal year.
In July, the first installment of taxes
is received by the school.
Hamm also reminded those present that the school year is funded
by previous year's tax dollars. For example, the current school year
is funded with 2011 tax dollars.
There is a challenge that lies with presenting a potential tax
levy. The EAV for tax year 2012 has not been determined; the data
should be available next April. Since the law requires that the
county clerk's office collect tax levy data by the last Tuesday of
December, the school has to estimate any potential increase in
residential and commercial property values within the district.
If the board's estimate is too low, they could lose tax dollars.
Estimating too high could cause the public to believe that their
taxes are being raised. Even if the school provides information as
to how property taxation works, the process involved is highly
complex and difficult to understand. It is ideal that the tax levy
remains at 4.99 percent or less.
Hamm's presentation also showed that the district has hit its
maximum levy capacity in all areas except for IMRF, tort immunity
and Social Security. The school is not looking to raise the rates
for those areas, so the overall rate can remain at 2.7, which would
give them just under $1.75 million in tax dollars. As the EAV will
likely be less than last year, the actual tax extension (the
aforementioned $1.75 million), will likely be lower as well.
There will be a public levy hearing Dec. 18 at 5:45 p.m. to
answer any questions the public may have and to vote on the levy.
Education fund analysis
At the question-and-answer session prior to the board meeting,
Hamm gave a brief explanation of the fluctuations in the education
fund over the last 10 years.
The education fund is used primarily to pay teacher salaries and
benefits for teachers.
While some people may believe that the school is spending too
much out of the education fund, the real problem is not the
spending, but much lower revenue to draw on. The school could not
have predicted the educational fallout that began in 2008.
"Say what you will about Blagojevich, but he spent a lot of money
on education," said Hamm.
Between 2008 and 2009, the state withheld nearly $107,000 from
CEL. Furthermore, years like 2009 and 2010 have proven to be
deceptive. While the figures may reflect that the school saw an
increase in revenue in those years, the increase is due to late
payments from 2008. Between the change in state spending and the
late payments, CEL, like other schools, has had a difficult time
adjusting to such financial instability.
Hamm also said that for those interested in tracking the
education fund expenditures, it would be better to look at audits
rather than the budget that is presented. A budget is simply an
estimation of what the school expects to spend, not the actual
figures. Those who are curious can see the past 10 years' worth of
The bonding process
Tom Crabtree, an employee of Stifel Nicolaus, gave a brief
presentation as to the issuing of financial bonds in order to pay
for any upcoming building projects the board decides to approve.
Crabtree's presentation mainly focused on how much money the
school can spend without raising property taxes. While avoiding an
increase in property taxes, the board could sell bonds in an amount
of up to $2.7 million. However, with the introduction of a 9-cent
tax increase, the board could raise that limit to $3.6 million.
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Crabtree also explained that the board could spend only 80
percent of the sales tax fund, as per state guidelines. This is in
place so the school still retains a financial cushion, should an
issue concerning bond repayment surface.
The board will make a decision by March about selling bonds.
Renovation cost analysis and tentative schedule
Hamm provided a presentation concerning the tentative costs and
schedule of the improvements that could be made to the school. A
five-step process was outlined for the course of the next five
years. Phase one, which involved identifying the problems that need
to be addressed and getting the public involved in the
decision-making, has already been completed.
Phase two, the project development phase, involves finalizing
designs, applying for grants and considering the feasibility of the
projects in terms of health and safety. This phase is expected to
end in January.
Phase two also includes the first wave of improvements that will
be made to the building. These improvements include new floor tile
and carpeting, new windows in the oldest wing, bathroom renovations,
updated electrical and HVAC systems, and renovations to art and
media rooms, as well as the front entrance. In total, the second
phase could cost at least $2.8 million, which does not reflect
potential grant money or any additional remodeling the board wishes
to begin at that time.
Phases three through five would occur between 2014 and 2016 and
would include a number of other renovations that would total another
$600,000 to $800,000.
Food service survey and recommendations
At the board meeting in October, the board discussed various
options to address an issue the school is having with lunches. New
USDA regulations have forced the school to change the lunch menus.
Unfortunately, the children are not necessarily enjoying what is
being served. In trying to find a solution, the school sent a survey
to parents to hear some opinions.
Of the parents surveyed, 72.9 percent want to see the school
change the menu to resemble what is used by other school districts,
like District 27, which uses a "hot lunch" menu. However, such a
change would result in the school having to spend an extra $2,500 to
$4,400 every year. If that were the case, 61.7 percent of the
parents surveyed said they wanted to see the school use disposable
trays and utensils, which would still require the extra $2,500.
Parents were also asked their thoughts on abandoning the new
guidelines in favor of meals more preferable to the students.
Unfortunately, such a change would result in the school having to
charge $4 per day for lunch, due to the withdrawal of the funding
that accompanies these guidelines. Of the parents surveyed, 76.6
percent said the school should stay with the guidelines, despite the
strict nature of the new regulations.
Finally, the survey asked if parents would like to see an a la
carte line for students to purchase extra food. Of the parents
surveyed, 64.6 percent said yes. However, the school would have to
hire an additional staff member to manage the line, lunch periods
would have to be extended, and an extra $600 would have to be spent
in order to buy an additional laptop and card scanner to track
With the likely change to tray lunches, the school has a little
more room to provide a menu that students will want to eat, but the
board will continue to work on the issue.
The presentations given (with the exception of the bond
presentation) are available for viewing on the CEL website at
Board members present were Keith Birnbaum, president; Kenny
Golden, vice president; Tina Warfel; Larry Hall; Ben Roland; Leslie
Starasta; and Superintendent Jennifer Hamm.
[By DEREK HURLEY]
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