St. Elmo-Brownstown reorganization committee making progress

The committee working to prepare for a referendum on the reorganization of the St. Elmo and Brownstown school districts has essentially gone as far as it can without legal counsel.

So, when it meets again in two weeks, the priority of that 10-member committee is hiring an attorney who will guide them through the steps required to get the reorganization issue on next Aprils ballot.

The 10-member committee is headed up by Clint Feezel of the Brownstown district and Dean Buzzard of the St. Elmo district.

Other Brownstown representatives on the committee include Teresa Barnick, Steve Behrends, Katriena Kroll and Michele Seabaugh. Also representing St. Elmo are Cindy Booher, Randy Myers, Brad Smith and Chad Wilhour.

At their meeting on Tuesday night, the members of that committee reviewed the first of several brochures they plan to distribute to residents of the St. Elmo and Brownstown school districts.

This first brochure is general in nature, with the committee giving the residents of the two districts general information on consolidation. Committee members discussed producing other brochures that cover specific issues, such as the finances of a consolidated district.

One of the issues to be addressed in brochures, and at public hearings, is the tax rate for a reorganized district. In turn, the committee plans to educate the residents of the two districts on the savings that consolidation can provide, though they emphasize that thats not the main reason for wanting to bring the two districts together.

Im here because of the educational part of it, and Im sure all of you are, too, Feezel said. But the fact of the matter is that there are some savings.

One of the matters that the reorganization committee needs legal counsel for is the drafting of the petition that is required to get the issue on the ballot next spring.

Another issue before the reorganization is the setup of the board that would represent the residents of both districts in a consolidated district. It may go with either a board consisting of representatives elected at-large or one that consists of representatives of sub-districts within the new district.

The reorganization committee is currently focusing on a sub-district setup, and it will likely get the assistance of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs in determining the boundary lines for those sub-districts.

St. Elmo Superintendent Deb Philpot reported on Tuesday that she has been speaking with a representative of the IIRA, which is based at Western Illinois University. She said the institute would charge the reorganization committee about $3,000 for its work in establishing the sub-districts.

By law, each of the sub-districts would contain an equal number of residents.

The makeup of the new board is one of the decisions that will be made by the reorganization committee. But, Philpot said, if the consolidation is approved by voters and there is a desire to change the setup of that board, that could be done only through another public vote.

In addition to producing informational brochures, the reorganization committee will educate the residents of the two school district about the proposed consolidation at public hearings.

At those hearings, the members of the committee will likely be faced with a number of questions. Brownstown Superintendent Doug Slover warned members of the committee that they will only be able to provide some answers.

You will be asked a lot of questions that you cant answer (about a reorganized school district), Slover said. You will only make recommendations; it will be up to the new board to make the final decisions.

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