PAXTON – When Paxton-Buckley-Loda Superintendent Cliff McClure first learned of a wind farm coming to the Paxton area several years ago, he wondered how his school district would use the millions of dollars in tax revenue the wind turbines would generate.
Today, as PBL faces a projected $500,000 deficit in its educational fund, the question is not how the money will be used, but how soon.
“It’s just going to fill a gap of what we’re losing in state revenue,” McClure said.
Last week, the assessor’s offices of Ford and Iroquois counties assigned assessed values to the 94 turbines built last summer and fall east and north of Paxton. Using a mandatory formula, the turbines were assessed at a value of $215,000 each, adding an estimated $20 million to the EAV of the wind farm’s footprint.
The largest benefactor of the wind farm will be PBL, which could receive about $1 million in extra tax revenue per year starting in 2013 based on the district keeping its tax rate unchanged from 2009.
However, the district is expecting state revenue sources to decrease in the process. PBL’s proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which began July 1, shows a projected $498,092 deficit in the educational fund, which usually relies heavily on state sources for revenue.
“I think the biggest thing you’re going to see is, even next year with the wind mills, you’re going to see local monies (from property taxes) probably take a more significant role in how we fund our schools,” McClure said, noting that traditionally PBL’s revenue stream has been based on about 40 percent coming from state sources, compared with 50 percent from local sources and 10 percent from federal.
McClure told the school board last Wednesday, when presenting the proposed budget to the board’s finance committee, that “state aid has taken a real hit.” In the educational fund, the district is expected to receive about $4.95 million in state revenue this fiscal year, compared with $5.79 million from local sources.
The district will get just $5,700 per student in state aid this fiscal year, down from $6,119 per student a year ago, McClure said. He said state aid will be reduced by about $150,000 from last year and is about $750,000 short of what it was three fiscal years ago.
Revenue from the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax (CCPRT) is also expected to be about $50,000 less than it was a year ago.
Meanwhile, local property tax revenue, which was listed in the budget based on last year’s property tax extension, is expected to take a small hit, as well, due to the fact that the district’s equalized assessed valuation has “leveled off,” McClure said.
Still, McClure said he was able to allow “for some room” for salary increases for employees; the PBL Education Association, the union representing PBL’s teachers, is currently negotiating a new contract with the district, McClure noted.
McClure also said he “beefed up the professional development budget” and included money in the budget for some technology improvements proposed by Technology Director Mike Brehm. McClure said Brehm plans to replace several computer work stations and a couple of file servers, for example.
In the operations and maintenance (O&M) fund, the district is also anticipating a deficit. The $301,408 deficit is mainly due to the bills that need to be paid for a number of construction and maintenance projects pursued this summer, McClure said. Projects such as the repaving of the front drive at Clara Peterson Elementary School are also expected to be pursued this fiscal year, McClure noted.
The O&M budget includes a $50,000 maintenance grant that was awarded to the district for electrical upgrades at Clara Peterson Elementary School this summer, he said. Meanwhile, McClure said he is continuing to try to save costs by negotiating a contract for lower electricity rates at the district’s four schools.
The transportation fund shows a projected deficit of $147,894. One reason for the red ink, McClure said, is that transportation payments from the state have been “prorated.” The fund also includes an expense for the purchase of a new seven-passenger van for $18,000.
Other funds showing deficits are the debt service fund (-$12,653), the Illinois Municipal Retirement System/Social Security fund (-$28,798), the Tort fund (-$12,209) and the fire prevention and safety fund (-$307,795).
McClure said some money listed in the IMRF fund will be used to pay for a new concession stand at the high school. The Tort fund, meanwhile, shows expenses related to the payment of some attorney fees and for the completion of a health/life/safety survey and various HLS projects.
The budget will be up for approval on Wednesday, Sept. 19, following a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. in the board meeting room at the unit office in Paxton.
Also at last week’s school board meeting:
— The board voted to hire Danielle Rogers as a junior high math interventionist; Robert Spooner as a high school special education teacher; Alisha Luebchow as a paraprofessional at Clara Peterson Elementary School; Gary Sultanian as a paraprofessional at the junior high; Kirsten Wallace as a paraprofessional at the junior high; Debra Wheeler as a cook at Clara Peterson Elementary School; Myndie Glazik as a paraprofessional at Clara Peterson Elementary School; Jessica Browne as a teacher at PBL Eastlawn School; Jason Peterson as a high school English teacher; Michael Cheng as a paraprofessional at PBL Eastlawn School; and Amy Miller as a paraprofessional at PBL Eastlawn School.
— The board voted to reassign Kim Brown to the head cook position at PBL Eastlawn School.
— The board appointed Robert Spooner as high school class sponsor; Danielle Rogers as junior high student council sponsor; and Brad Pickens as sixth-grade girls’ basketball coach.
— The board heard a report from each principal about enrollment at his or her school. At the high school, Principal Trent Eshleman said, enrollment was in the “445 range,” which he said was a “steady” number when compared with last year at this time. He said only about five students from last year had not yet enrolled. At the junior high school, enrollment totaled 346, including 11 new students. At PBL Eastlawn School, enrollment totaled 338, compared with 340 last year at this time. Principal Barry Wright said there were about 10 new students at Eastlawn. At Clara Peterson, enrollment was “up a bit,” Principal Amanda Wetherell said, adding that there were 13-14 incoming kindergarten students, giving the school a total of 98; about 100 second-graders; and 92 first-graders. She said about 15 kids moved out of the district but were replaced by those who moved in. McClure said he would present sixth-day enrollment figures at the September meeting.
— Brehm said there were no issues with parents using the RevTrack online payment system during registration. Brehm said about 15 percent of parents used RevTrack to pay for registration fees using credit cards.
— Eshleman said there was “not a lot of resistance” to the high school’s new random drug-testing policy for all student athletes and others participating in a select few extracurricular activities.
— A survey of students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades administered last spring showed alcohol continues to be the No. 1 most-used drug among students in the district. The so-called Illinois Youth Survey, completed every two years, showed that among 12th-graders, 45 percent had drank alcohol within the last 30 days. Meanwhile, cigarette smoking was down among students in sixth, eighth and 10th grades. Marijuana use was also down. “Pep spice,” or synthetic cannabis, was “very easy” to acquire, according to 41 percent of 12th-graders. Among seniors, 76 percent said they had never used pep spice in the past year, but 10 percent said they used it more than five times. According to sixth-, eighth- and 10th-graders, marijuana and pep spice were the most abused drug in the school, but seniors reported that alcohol was the most abused.
— The board heard a report about projects completed this summer. The upgrading of the electrical system at Clara Peterson was completed, as were the replacement of the roof at Eastlawn and the installation of vinyl tile in several classrooms at the high school. A new concession stand is 60-70 percent complete, McClure said.
— Tara Wienke, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said staff members will be using early dismissal time on Tuesdays for professional development. Specifically, staff will be learning and getting trained to use Instructional Planner software.
— Wienke said she thought it was a “great day today” meeting with the district’s new teachers. The district has 26 new employees, 20 of whom are certified teachers, she said. “I had a chance to spend the afternoon with them talking about instructional planning, curriculum mapping, Common Core (learning standards), MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing and academic vocabulary and all those kinds of things that are going on. … It was a full day of information overload, and I was just very, very encouraged. I think it’s going to be a great group of new teachers.”
— The board approved a three-year renewal of a nursing contract with Gibson Area Hospital.
— McClure announced that an open house at PBL Junior High School is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, followed by a presentation about prescription drugs by the Ford County Probation Department.
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