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By MATT DANIELS
Rantoul Press assistant editor
The Rantoul Township High School district will keep its tax levy the same as last year, even with the district expecting cuts in general state aid payments it receives.
RTHS Superintendent Scott Amerio presented the school board with information about its tentative levy at its Nov. 12 meeting. The district is requesting a levy of $4,765,855, the same figure it requested in 2011.
“We have a pretty good estimate based on what we received last year and what the Consumer Price Index is this year that the county is not going to give us that much money,” Amerio said. “They’re going to give us right around $4.7 million, but we set it a little higher because if something changes and we get new growth in, we could get more money.”
If the district didn’t ask for the additional money but was entitled to more, it would not receive the full amount.
“The county’s only going to give you what you asked for,” Amerio said. “You have to be real careful about that. When you don’t know what general state aid is going to do, you don’t want to short-change yourself on property taxes.”
Champaign County awarded RTHS $4,540,754 in property taxes last year, and projections for this year are at $4,702,589, which would represent a 3.6 percent increase. Amerio said according to the current estimates, property owners of a $100,000 home can expect a $25 increase in their property taxes paid to the high school district.
“Our levy is staying the same, but the tax rate is going up a little bit because of what our EAV is doing,” Amerio said in reference to the equalized assessed valuation.
“If we had more EAV, the tax rate goes down and individual tax owners pay less. If we can get a lot of businesses that aren’t in TIF districts and enterprise zones, then we could get more EAV.”
Even though the board does not have to hold a truth-in-taxation hearing since the increase is less than 5 percent, Amerio recommended to the board they still have one. The hearing will take place at 6:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, prior to the board’s scheduled December meeting.
“I think that’s just a good practice to follow,” Amerio said. “It adds a layer of transparency as far as what this group is doing as far as finances are concerned.”
Financial update: Amerio informed the board the district received $42,079 from the 1 percent county sales tax measure.
“Next month, hopefully, should be a good month for us as it has been the past two years,” he said. “What we collect in November is generally a pretty big month for us. If that’s the case, we should finish with about the same amount of revenue that we normally do.”
Amerio said the district has spent about 25-27 percent of the its budget in the operating funds, according to the expenditure report.
“We’re doing a good job of watching those,” Amerio said. “We are one-third of the way through the fiscal year. As long as they’re under 33 percent, we’re on track.”
The board unanimously approved making a $322,983 payment on its 2003 series bond that is due Dec. 1. Amerio said once the payment is done, two more payments on the 2003 bonds are still to be paid before the district can start paying off more on its 2010 bonds.
Honoring Johnson: The board recognized John Johnson, a maintenance worker who recently retired from RTHS.
Amerio remembered one time this summer when a water leak had sprung at RTHS and Johnson was supposed to have the day off.
“We just had water streaming down the wall,” Amerio said. “I had to call J.J. while he was trying to take a day off, and he said, ‘No problem, Mr. Amerio. I’ll be right there.’ That really typified to me the kind of guy J.J. was. He was just very dependable, and you knew he was going to be there. He’s going to be missed around here, but we wish him the best of luck.”
Sick leave agreement set: The board approved 7-0 a memorandum of understanding between the RTHS Education Association and the board regarding the appropriate use of paid sick leave.
A 2009 change in the law allowed employees to use 30 paid sick days after the birth or adoption of a child.
Amerio said what the district allowed employees who were on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to use more than 30 paid sick days.
“We ran into issues with two employees who had more than 30 paid sick days, had made a decision to have a baby under the impression that they would be able to operate under what we had done in the past and allow them to use more than 30 paid sick days,” Amerio said. “I talked with the association and our attorney trying to come up with a fair compromise.”
Amerio said the district has four teachers this year who are pregnant, and two were under the impression they could use more than 30 sick paid days along with the FMLA days.
“What this memorandum of understanding is saying is that we’ll allow these two teachers to take more than 30 paid sick days, but that’s it,” Amerio said. “After this, everybody is on notice that we’re going to follow the law as we should have since 2009. These are the last two situations where this will occur. I think it’s fair.”
New faculty: Several first-year RTHS faculty members were at the meeting to introduce themselves to the board.
Among those in attendance were art teacher Emily Weller, an Augustana College graduate; part-time math teacher Samantha Wheeler, a University of Illinois graduate; art teacher Elizabeth Piatt, a Northwestern graduate who received a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; athletic director Joe Bendoraitis, who graduated from McKendree University and received a master’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University; physical education/drivers education/health teacher Mitch Wilson, an Illinois College graduate; English teacher Ryan Kerr, a graduate of Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, who received a master’s degree from Concordia University in Mequon, Wis.; math teacher Kyla Basnett, a University of Illinois graduate who did her student teaching at RTHS last spring; and Spanish teacher Cherilyn Larsen, who graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
New board policies approved, discussed: The board unanimously approved several new board policies that deal with school board governance, powers and duties of the board, board member development, types of school board meetings, board policy development, the superintendent, relations with other organizations and agencies, board member expenses and board meeting procedures.
The board also heard the first reading of several proposed policies that involve access to the district’s public records, advertising and distributing materials in school provided by non-school related entities, revenue and investments, environmental quality of buildings and grounds, food services and free and reduced price food services.