By Leigh Morris
For the Star-Gazette
A proposed balanced budget and a new labor agreement topped action at the July 15 session of the Virginia School Board.
The proposed budget, which anticipates expenditures of nearly $15.5 million, will be open for debate and final action at the August 19 board meeting. About 71 percent of the district’s spending goes to salaries and benefits while purchased services account for 15 percent, supplies and materials 10 percent and capital and other costs 4 percent.
During a Committee of the Whole meeting that preceded the board session, board President Matthew Werner and Superintendent Brent O’Daniell reviewed the district’s finances. Generally, board members expressed satisfaction with the district’s performance even though the Illinois State Board of Education has placed the district on “Financial Warning.”
The primary reason the district received the Financial Warning designation is because of the need to incur debt in excess of $5 million to finance the school construction project, according to Werner. This pushed borrowing beyond the so-called legal limit, but O’Daniell noted that such indebtedness is allowed for construction. The state is paying more than $12 million for the project.
In part, the district’s share of the construction costs is being financed by a bond and interest real estate tax levy. The district has issued 20-year bonds. The district also uses its share of sales tax revenue to fund the construction debt. Werner noted this serves to reduce the real estate tax burden.
Following a 65-minute closed door executive session, the board unanimously approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the Virginia Education Association (VEA). The VEA is the union that represents teachers.
The board also rehired two elementary teachers who had lost their positions earlier this year through reduction in force (RIF) action. Those teachers were Ashley Lawson and Kristen Dunseth. The board also named Rickey Cox to serve as the volunteer junior high school baseball coach.
The board accepted resignations of four teachers, including Spanish teacher Katie Coles. O’Daniell expressed optimism that her position will be filled within the next few weeks. Also resigning were elementary teachers Meghan Harper, Ashley Turpin and Lani Neff. Neff is moving to Champaign where her husband has taken a new position. Turpin has accepted a teaching position in her hometown and Harper has decided to be a stay at home mother following the birth of her baby.
O’Daniell reported on a transportation study that proposed to reduce the number of bus routes from three to two. The average time to drive the current routes is about 40 minutes, but the two proposed routes would take at least 75 minutes, according to the superintendent. He added that adoption of the new routes would likely result in savings of no more than $10 per day. The board agreed to retain the current three routes. “This is better for the kids. It’s better for the parents,” said board member Tim Krause.
Regarding the school construction project, Werner said the Building Committee is planning for an open house and cornerstone ceremony during next summer’s Virginia Bar-B-Que on June 7, 2014.
It also was reported that the new playground will be ready for youngsters when school resumes though it is unlikely that grass will be planted by that time. Also, the gymnasium will be available at the same time with new lights, new roof and fresh paint throughout the facility. O’Daniell said the new bleachers will not be in place when school resumes, but will be installed before competition begins in October.