Finances main issue at Cerro Gordo school board session

By Hannah Kibler
Journal-Republican correspondent

Looking towards next year’s financial planning was among some of the important topics discussed during administrative reports at the Jan. 16 Cerro Gordo School Board meeting.

“If we want to plan conservatively we should expect 80 percent of state aid,” said Superintendent Brett Robinson after attending a meeting in Springfield with Dr. Chris Koch, the state Superintendent of Schools along with over 30 other superintendents from central Illinois school districts.

Although the district will not be informed of how much funding it will receive until May at the earliest, an additional 9 percent proration in state aid would certainly follow the trend over the last two years in which the district unexpectedly received only 95 percent of what the state aid formula dictated they should have last year, with an additional 6 percent cut in funding this year.

With the state struggling to handle its debt, a lack of pension reform is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the decreased funding for school districts in recent years.

Robinson cited a recent article by Ralph Martire, the executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, which outlined how poor budgeting and irresponsible spending habits have allowed pension debt to grow over the last 40 years in which legislators have used money from the system for other purposes.

However it is a 15-year-old IOU that lawmakers passed in 1994 allowing legislators to borrow money from the system with the intent of making back payments compounded with the poor state of the economy that has finally brought pension reform to the forefront.

“Until the pension problem is fixed there will be less funding available to state funding recipients for things such as K-12 general aid,” explained Robinson.

“Its looking like things will get worse before they get better” he said, estimating that receiving only 80 percent of what has been promised would mean a shortage in excess of $200,000 next year. And while the current fiscal year is the first that the district has had deficit spending since Robinson began serving as the superintendent in the 06-07 school year he noted, “It’s not just us. All districts are in tough financial times, and although our situation is not rosy there are many that are worse off than we are. I hope if anything people will be understanding of the challenges we are up against economically to continue to provide the same high quality education we always have with less and less funding.”

Although the budget won’t be finalized until August, Robinson suggested planning conservatively now and making adjustments as more information comes in.

Other action
In other news, the board discussed repairing part of the gym floor underneath the high school bleachers. The school recently installed an automated bleacher system; however expansion and contraction from temperature changes throughout the seasons have caused ruts in several planks, rendering the system’s calibrations ineffective. Although the problem can be temporarily fixed, repairing the floor will require taking the bleachers off the walls, making it a likely summer project.

Additionally, the board approved a new snow removal contract with Walker’s Lawn and Landscaping, a Decatur contractor. Board members also voted to accept an anonymous donation in the amount of $1,150 to provide warm-ups for the middle school cheerleaders.

Students of the month include Jacob Hayes in sixth grade, Ethan Bulthuis in seventh grade, and eighth grader Noah Henricks who is also this year’s nominee for the IESA scholar attitude award.

The high school student of the month is Cole Blickensderfer.

Categories (2):News, Education

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