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By MATT DANIELS
Rantoul Press assistant editor
The dire news of school finances does not spare any school in the state.
Rantoul Township High School included.
RTHS Superintendent Scott Amerio informed board members at their Dec. 10 meeting that projections indicate the district will receive anywhere from 80 to 85 percent of its general state aid payments next school year. That figure represents a decrease from the 89 percent rate RTHS is receiving from its general state aid payments this year.
“It’s just frustrating and disappointing,” Amerio said. “You’re expected to do more every year with less (funding). There’s not much we can do about it. We’ll have to look at where we can save money. Obviously, if you’re not getting as much revenue then you’ve got to cut back on expenditures. We’ll probably start looking in January or February of what cuts we could make and where we can save some money.”
Amerio said the district received $300,000 less in general state aid this year, and he expects another $300,000 loss for next year if the percentage of general state aid payments continues to shrink.
Amerio also said if an agreement is not reached at the federal level involving the fiscal cliff, the district will lose $32,000 of its Title I funding at the start of 2013. Title I funding helps the district implement programs for students who come from low-income families.
“Indirectly, the state of Illinois is going to lose revenue,” Amerio said if an agreement about the fiscal cliff is not reached, “and they’re going to make that up by giving us even less general state aid.”
Amerio said the state is $154,027 behind in its mandated categorical payments to the district. The board approved 7-0 its tax levy request of $4,765,855, the same amount it levied last year.
“We will most certainly get capped somewhere less than that (total),” Amerio said, “but when you hear the financial news of what the state is going to do to us with general state aid, you have to maximize what you’re going to get from property taxpayers.”
The board also unanimously approved a resolution to abate $536,664 it owes on the district’s 2003 and 2010 series bonds. Those payments will come from the county sales tax revenue, of which the district received $49,091 from the 1 percent sales tax increase measure this month.
“Every year, the months are about the same,” Amerio said. “We should finish right on track there with the sales tax money.”
Building projects update: The board approved 7-0 bid specifications to replace the east wing elevator. The project, if approved, is likely to start at the end of the 2012-13 school year and be complete by the start of the 2013-14 school year. The current elevator is the original one put in when the east wing was built in the 1950s, Amerio said.
“They have to take the old elevator out, and there’s so many weeks that they have to do that,” Amerio said. “Once that’s out, they have another couple weeks to do more stuff and then the actual installation of the cab.”
The estimated cost to replace the elevator is $375,000, which will be paid for with bond money. Amerio also informed the board of two other potential summer projects.
One project would replace the ceiling and floor tile in the south end of the second and third floors of the east wing. It would cost an estimated $230,000, which would be paid for with bond money.
“I would really like for this to go out for bid in January and accept bids in February,” Amerio said. “I don’t want to push it off until March. I want to send everything out at once so we can decide if we want to do everything or just the ceiling tiles. What we did was we did the ceiling tile as the base bid and the floor tile as an alternate. If it comes back really high, we can always say, ‘OK, we’ll do the floor tile later.’”
Another project would fix a urinal in the first floor boys bathroom in the east wing that caused problems last summer when a pipe was leaking.
“It’s actually where the urinals connect in,” Amerio said. “The problem is we’ve got to go in and mess with those. As soon as you start doing that, you’ve got to bring it up to code, which means the urinals have to be suspended and can’t be on the floor. We’ve got to go in and redo the whole thing.”
Amerio said GHR Engineering, Champaign, came out to the school recently to look at the bathroom and will get back to him on what the project would cost.
Amerio said he would get updated costs on whether to proceed with installing more security fencing along the school in time for the 2013-14 school year.
The plan is to run a fence in front of the east wing to the industrial technology building and have a passgate that would allow drivers the option to come in off U.S. 136.
The school would run another fence from the industrial technology building to the agricultural building and then put another fence between the west wing and the agricultural building.
“By doing that, we would fully enclose the campus and provide a little more security,” Amerio said. “That’s what we’re looking at there.”
Other future projects also discussed included installing new lockers in the locker rooms, replacing the gym boiler, parking lot upgrades and installing hot water heaters near the locker rooms.
“Right now, downstairs in the boys and official’s locker room, that hot water is tied to the boiler system,” Amerio said. “If you don’t have the boiler running, you don’t have any hot water.”
Personnel report: The board approved the resignations of Lauren Quinlan, instructional aide; Ted Valentine, maintenance; and Sarah Hills, assistant cheerleading coach. The board approved the hiring of Amanda Loveless as an instructional aide and appointed Rhonda Sykes and Billie Waddell as volunteers for a new Girl Scouts program RTHS is implementing for high school girls.
Board policies adopted, heard: The board unanimously approved several board policies that involved 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. The board also heard the first reading of several new board policies dealing with uniform grievance procedures, equal employment opportunity and minority recruitment, Title I programs, equal educational opportunities, visitors to and conduct on school property and gifts to the district.