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Long-term planning is on the mind of both city and school officials in Monticello. While there are plenty of projects on the radar for both government entities in 2013, they also hope to poise themselves for several years down the road.
While tackling financial issues that are affecting nearly every school district in the state, Superintendent Vic Zimmerman also hopes to have a long-term plan for school buildings in place by the end of the 2013.
“We hope to know by the end of this year what our plan will be going forward,” said Zimmerman.
The district hired BLDD Architects of Decatur to help come up with a plan, and three public meetings helped BLDD compile preliminary possibilities in December. Those 16 options will be narrowed down, refined, and updated figures will be presented to the school board sometime this spring.
With the district projecting a $2 million budget deficit this year and eyeing budget cuts for 2013-14, it may seem strange to be costing out a multi-million dollar building project; but Zimmerman said it is actually an ideal time since four of the district’s five buildings date to before 1924.
“The reason it is a good time is we have four very old buildings, and we have a financial situation. If we reduce from five to four or three buildings, we could save $600,000 to $1,000,000 in operations, so it helps that side,”
Several of the ideas generated by the facilities planning sessions revolved around closing at least one elementary school.
In addition, the district already has one of the lowest tax rates in the state, and will pay off building bonds for the middle school in six years.
The switch to Common Core Standards for district curricula is also a thrust this year. The Monticello Superintendent said the process began last school year, commenting that it is “not really a wholesale change. It’s more of a tweaking” of current learning standards.
In the day where “Google” has become a verb, he said students have so much information at their fingertips that memorization is not as essential. Instead, problem-solving is the key.
“Current standards were broad, so we teach a little about a lot of things. Common Core is not as wide, but more deep. It’s more like taking a concept and going deeper into it,” said Zimmerman.
City long-term plan
Monticello Mayor Chris Corrie is also pushing for long-term planning, which could include an update to the city’s strategic plan.
“We have one that’s nine-years-old, and it’s grossly out of date, so we’ll be looking for an independent party to come in and facilitate a revision. I think we’ll look at a five year plan,” said the Mayor. “It won’t have a lot of specifics – more like ideas. It’s a skeleton plan.”
But specifics will be included in another long-term document, a five-year budget plan.
“That’s something I have personally asked staff to do, and they’re agreed it’s important,” said Corrie. “It’s a big deal to have something you can use to guide your decisions.”
That’s not to say the city does not have some projects of a more immediate fashion on is schedule. Last year’s accomplishments included the large detention basin project on the east side of town to help curb flooding; a TIF project for Kelly’s Accounting Service, an improvement in the city’s fire service rating, and the start of construction for the Villas of Holly Brook, an assisted-living facility set open this spring.
Plans for 2013 include planning for west-side bike path extensions as well as helping design a Monticello to Bement path; a Piatt County Antique Day, continuation of the high speed fiber optic cable project, water and sewer upgrades and a new city website.