Morrison School Board Addresses Deficit Concerns and Test Scores
By LYNNETTE FORTH | For The Prairie Advocate News
MORRISON – Concerns over a large deficit, and test scores were the major topics of the September 25th Board meeting of the Morrison Community Unit District.
After approving minutes from previous meetings, members heard a report on the District audit from Russell Rumbold, a Certified Public Accountant with Gorenz and Associates. Rumbold informed those on hand that as expected, the revenue is less due to the loss of funds from the State. The District did spend less in FY12 than in 2011.
“Community funding plays an important role to the tune of 51%,” Rumbold stated. “Real Estate taxes have increased over the years, the bright spot being that assessed value has been increasing. Your tax rate of 5.0495% is pretty typical for a rural Illinois setting.”
Rumbold continued by saying, “Fund balances of the District are good. The operating reserve is good. You have stable enrollment, with additional borrowing options available.”
Jim Prombo questioned Rumbold by asking, “Is our financial score comparable to other Districts?” Rumbold said “A lot are dropping.”
Superintendent Suellen Girard advised, “We have no more bond funds within the working cash fund.”
Girard gave her report reiterating concern with the budget. She advised that the Principals have been doing a really good job of acquiring data for ISAT and PSAE scores. All of the buildings continue to work on school improvement plans.
“I have been spending quite a bit of time and sleepless nights looking at ways to reduce expenses, as well as responding to public comments and questions,” Girard stated.
Another issue with water expense has been found at the football field, and officials are trying to track down the problem. Girard has reportedly been working with attorneys focusing on student centered legal issues.
Erin Luckey gave a report on the Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, informing the board that the team has been working on preparing an online survey listing A-Z options that could possibly be cut to save money.
“The big discussion was that salary is such a huge percentage, what can we do?” Mike Vegter asked “Can we put this into the local papers so that people can know how they can do the survey; going to public places if they don’t have internet access?” Girard answered “Yes, that’s the plan.”
Jim Prombo gave a brief report on a recently attended Fall meeting of the Illinois Association of School Boards which was held at Durand Schools. Roger Eddy the IASB Executive Director gave the report.
Board members heard a Finance Committee Report from board members Jim Ridley and Doug Pannier. A majority of the meeting was spent going over the auditors report, with Ridley stating, “Now we’re back to having to make decisions about how to make cuts. We don’t want to get back to where we were in 2002. The time is now; it’s not going to get better.”
“We’ve got some work to do coming up,” Pannier added.
Discussion items followed including:
- Financial report as of July 31st, 2012. Girard advised that approximately 11.3% of funds has been spent, which is within the expected range.
- Treasurer’s Report as of July 31st 2012
- Financial Comparisons FY11, FY12, FY13. Girard stated “We have cut expenditures by $1 million in two years. That’s remarkable. It’s gonna be a struggle, we still have a long way to go because of the huge reduction in revenue.”
- Cash flow projections. “Operations and Maintenance fund is the problem fund. Bond and interest is just fine. Transportation deductions may have helped keep expenses close to the projected level.
- Bills as of August 28th, 2012.
- Preview of 2013-2014 budget reduction survey. Board members viewed a draft copy that will be posted on the website. Girard said, ”The survey is pretty neat. There are a lot of different options that will be available for reduction ideas. The survey will add up the possible savings as the taker goes along. This is a communication tool. We are at the point that there really isn’t anything else to cut. To this point, we have not cut class size or programs. We are at a point now where everything has to be on the table.”
Doug Pannier suggested having the public meeting before people take the survey. Mike Vegter agreed. “Sure. I think that’s a good idea,” Girard stated. A public meeting to discuss budget options is currently scheduled for November 9th.
- 2012 ISAT scores report was given by principals, with results being better in some areas than others, but good overall.
- 2012 PSAE score reports. Scott Vance reported, “The scores are consistently over the State average since 2002. Our average over the last 10 years is 64%. ACT scores are still above other schools in the area”.
- Facilities Sales Tax Option. Girard noted that she has written a letter to City Administrator Wise inquiring what amount of revenue could be generated. Girard asked the board to give her another month to talk with other Districts, with possible action in December.
- Bullying Report Form. A form on the District website is available for parent or student to report bullying. All contact information is confidential, and goes directly to the proper school Principal. “We take bullying as a serious issue,” Girard stated.