No funding, but school starts

As the Vandalia School District began a new school year on Wednesday morning, district officials were waiting to see if state legislators could agree on a plan to begin releasing state funds to schools.
Because legislators had yet to agree on a funding mechanism that would allow the release of General State Aid payments, Vandalia and other districts had not received the first GSA payment last week.
The second GSA payment is scheduled for next Tuesday.
“It does not look good to get our second General State Aid payment,” Well told the Vandalia Board of Education on Tuesday.
The legislature in May approved Senate Bill 1, a Democratic plan that proponents say provides a more equitable way of funding all schools in Illinois.
But Gov. Bruce Rauner last week issued an amendatory veto to reduce the amount of money given to Chicago schools.
The Illinois Senate voted 38-19 on Sunday  to override Rauner’s veto, and the Illinois House was to scheduled to vote Wednesday on a motion to override the governor’s veto.
Well told school board members that the district will receive local property tax funds in September and October.
“We will be living off of the far right column (positive fund balances), as we have prepared for the last five or six years, and as many school districts have not,” Well said.
“Until we get a funding mechanism approved in Springfield, we will not get General State Aid and we will be living off of our property taxes,” he said.
“Several of our accounts are in the negative for the year,” Well said. “Without that (positive) fund balance, we would be in a very tough situation.”
Well has said recently that the district would be able to operate until Christmas with the funds on hand, and board President Chris Palmer asked if that is still the case.
District Business Manager Lori Meseke said, “We’ll have to check it very closely.”
Well said that the district received the third of its four categorical payments (reimbursement for such things as transportation and special education.
That fourth categorical could be classified as a payment for this year instead of last, as the state has done in the past.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Well reported that students in the district will be looking at the solar eclipse Monday, though some approved glasses have not yet been received.
He said that it was discovered that some of the glasses that were received were not NASA-approved, so those have to be exchanged.
“Each one of the buildings has different events, age-appropriate events scheduled,” Well said.
He said that a busload of VCHS students is traveling to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to view the eclipse.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
• Well reported that generators have been installed at the junior high and high school. The generators will kick on when the schools lose electrical power.
In the past, he said, the district has lost cafeteria food when power has gone out. Also, he said, without power, the district loses its technology equipment and surveillance equipment.
• Well reported that the scoreboard on Mark Greer Field that was damaged when thrown to the ground during the Father’s Day storm has been replaced and installed late last week.
• Well gave an update on the exterior work on the high school, mainly done on the north side of the building. It has included tuckpointing and the installation of metal caps along the top to prevent future leakage.
• The board approved volunteer high school football coaches Jeremy Leininger and Matt Shroyer.
• The board filled coaching vacancies: Elizabeth Mills, high school head softball coach; Nathan Miller, high school assistant softball coach; Dana Kern, junior high girls track; and Jason Hagy, junior high eighth-grade basketball.
• The board approved the hiring of Tamara Siebert for the speech position at Vandalia Elementary School.
• The board approved the Okaw Area Vocational Center budget. Well said that other districts participating in the center have already approved the budget. Vandalia is the administrative district for the center.


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