Well assesses future school funding

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By Dave Bell

Just before its last regular meeting of the fiscal year, the Vandalia Board of Education on Tuesday held a special meeting to approve an amended 2012-13 budget.
Such amendments, which are permitted under the Illinois School Code, allow districts to plug in unanticipated income or expenditures to produce a more accurate budget.
“Only a few line items were changed,” district Business Manager Lori Meseke told the board. “Revenues have come in as projected, but there will be a couple lines on the expense side that will change.”
Those changes include additional charges of $138,000 to send special education students to a specialized school and about $38,000 of unbudgeted expenses to replace the engines in two school buses.
“Earlier, we projected a $1.6-million deficit in the four operating funds,” said Superintendent Rich Well. “Now, it looks like the deficit will be about $1.2 million as we close out the year.”
The board unanimously approved the changes to the $13-million budget, and the special meeting was adjourned.
When the regular meeting was called to order, Well told the board that the district will end the current fiscal year (on June 30) with a fund balance of just more than $2 million. Those funds, he said, will help the district operate until property tax revenues are received from the county in August and September. Similarly, no general state aid payments will be received until August, he said.
When board President Chris Palmer asked if the fund balance would be adequate to pay the district’s obligations over the summer, Meseke said that it “should get us through.”
Well said that although Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to sign the measure, the state House and Senate have approved a plan that would hold general state aid funding at current levels for the coming fiscal year.
Thus, GSA funding would remain at 89 percent of the original levels and transportation funding (for transporting students to and from school) would remain at 64 percent of the original levels. Earlier this spring, it had been rumored that the funding would drop to 80 percent.
“The 89 percent is better than 80 percent,” Well said, “but it’s still not 100 percent. All districts in the state are in the same bind.”
After the meeting, Well added: “Future GSA funding depends on what the state does with fixing the pension shortfall. They need to reach some sort of an agreement, and then we’ll know where things are. We need leadership with courage.”
He also said that even with the assurance of level state funding next fiscal year, it’s likely that the Vandalia district will have to make further cuts.
“We’re still eating into our balance. For this year, the board cut $900,000, but because of increased costs, that resulted in only $600,000 in savings.”   
At the end of the 15-minute regular meeting, the board took the following action:
• Approved the employment of Michelle Miller as a physical education aide at Vandalia Junior High School; John Hall and Lynn Huber as full-time substitute teachers for one year; Lori Cortelloni as a 5.5-hours-per-day clerk at Vandalia Elementary School; Amanda Kamplain and Brenna Heidinger as co-sponsors of the Vandalia Community High School student council; Joey Danikan as a VCHS language arts teacher; and Dana Kern as VCHS girls tennis coach.
• Approved the prevailing wage rate.
• Approved the resignation of Robyn DeMoulin, a VES second-grade teacher.
• Approved a new club at VCHS – Interact (the high school branch of Rotary), with Gena Nance serving as the volunteer sponsor.
• Approved 4 p.m. as the starting time for the July 16 school board meeting.