Wednesday, January 02, 2013
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CEL holds levy hearing, prepares for bond issuance for building renovations, and reorganizes board

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[January 02, 2013]  The Chester-East Lincoln School board met Dec. 18 for its monthly meeting. Prior to the meeting there was a brief hearing for a tax levy presentation. Due to recent member departures, highlights of the actual board meeting included a few procedural items in reorganizing the board.

Tax levy presentation

A short presentation was given by Superintendent Jennifer Hamm on the subject of the tax levy for 2012.

She provided 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.

  • The following April, the county clerk releases the equalized assessed valuation 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 tax dollars. For example, the current school year is funded with 2011 tax dollars.

As the law requires that the county clerk's office collects 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 above 4.99 percent would normally result in a presentation being given to the public to explain the reasoning for raising the tax levy; such a presentation will not be necessary this year.

Hamm informed the board that the only change made to the tax levy plan was a reduction in IMRF money. This reduction was made in order to provide more available money for the school tort fund in order to pay legal fees that will arise when the school sells alternate revenue bonds to pay for school improvements.

The amount of $1,746,586 would be requested at the same the rate as last year, 2.70 percent.

The tax levy was approved later, during the actual meeting.

Board procedure

Kenny Golden, board president, asked that everyone present remain silent for a brief moment after the Pledge of Allegiance in honor of those who died in Connecticut on Dec. 14.

Board member Leslie Starasta formally stepped down as board secretary in order to take on the role of treasurer. The treasurer will also be taking on the duties of the business and compliance officer, a position formerly held by Karen Beverlin. Board member Tina Warfel took on the position of secretary.

Board member Ben Roland took Golden's place as vice president, and the board accepted Golden as the new president. The former president, Keith Birnbaum, stepped down from the position in November, citing a conflict with other priorities that required his attention.

Kenda Kitner was also officially sworn in to take her place on the school board. Kitner is replacing Joel Vinson, who also resigned from the board last month to pursue other priorities outside of the school district.

Another aspect of board procedure that was addressed is a rewriting of language within board policy. While no changes are being made, a part of the policy has been rewritten to better reflect the rules of public interaction with the board.

Jeff Brooks, a former board president, believes that the change in language will discourage public participation. "This is stifling the community from public input," said Brooks.

Jim Rohrer told the board that he does not understand why any changes are being made, and he feels that the board is using this as a way to isolate themselves from public input.

Starasta commented later in the meeting that the board is simply looking to make the definition clearer as to what a public comment at a board meeting should be.

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Golden clarified that "the role of the public comment section is not for interaction between the board; it is for the public to make statements to the board. ... If there are questions that need to be answered, they can be taken down (recorded)."

Essentially, the board meetings are not for the public to question individual board members. Rather, the meetings are for concerns to be brought forward. It is up to the board members to address those questions at future meetings. The public gives the board direction as to how to focus their time.

"I would agree that it doesn't seem to be the best format, but remember that our meetings are business meetings," added Golden, who said that this is how other schools in the area conduct their meetings.

Hamm reminded everyone that the board has a quarterly forum for questions and interactions with the public. Hamm also said that the board is to operate as a whole, not as individuals.

Roland said that the same procedure is used by the city and county officials at their meetings. "I don't see anything here that is more restrictive than what our colleagues in the community have," said Roland.

Starasta said that the board members are available to be contacted in other ways for members of the public to voice concerns.

Paying for renovations

In order to pay for renovations that will be made to the school over the next few years, the school will sell financial bonds. Hamm provided paperwork to the board from Stifel Nicolaus, the company that CEL will be working with to sell the bonds.

Alternate revenue bonds will be sold in an amount not to exceed $1.8 million. The board assured those present that they are not intending to call on the maximum amount.

Starasta summarized by saying that the board can use up to $1.8 million in this manner, but as they are still looking at designs to determine exactly where to start, no set number has been decided on.

"It is potentially possible that we could come in under the 1.8, and we have some flexibility in making some decisions along the way," said Starasta.

As the money used to pay for the bonds will be from the 1 percent sales tax, the tax cannot be taken from the district by any new state law until the payments are completed.

This money will be used in addition to $1 million provided by health-life-safety funds as approved by the state.

Tom Crabtree of Stifel Nicolaus told the board that their action taken on Dec. 18 was simply to announce their intent formally, and the actual bonds could be sold in February.

Jean Underwood of BLDD was present to tell the board that they are expecting to see more detailed designs of the renovations in January.

Board members present were Kenny Golden, president; Ben Roland, vice president; Tina Warfel; Larry Hall; Leslie Starasta; Kenda Kitner; and Superintendent Jennifer Hamm.


Chester-East Lincoln 2012 tax levy information

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