Mendon School District facing cuts if state aid continues to decline

Posted: Feb. 26, 2013 6:15 pm Updated: Mar. 19, 2013 7:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

MENDON, Ill. -- The Mendon School District will be forced to make "some hard financial decisions" in coming months if state revenue drops as expected, Superintendent Diane Robertson said.

In a report to the Mendon School Board last week, Robertson said revenue from general state aid declined by $300,000 in the 2012-13 school year -- falling from $2.8 million to $2.5 million. She said this is because the state is "prorating" state aid at an 89 percent rate this year. Next year, she said, the proration is likely to dip to 80 percent, which is why the district may have to make some cuts.

Robertson said about 56 percent of the district's total revenue comes from state sources, so the district takes a financial hit whenever the state's payments are reduced.

Robertson said the Mendon School District isn't alone in feeling the fiscal strain. She said nearly 67 percent of all Illinois school districts are in deficit spending this year, including Mendon. "That number is expected to grow," she said in a report summarizing the board's meeting.

In a related matter, the board discussed the possibility of raising student fees in the 2013-14 school year. Robertson said this is being considered as part of "an attempt to balance significant cuts in state funding with the ability of local families to afford increases in this economic climate."

The board took no action but will continue to study possible fee increases.

The board also plans to meet with various booster groups and coaches at its March 6 meeting to discuss increasing revenue and decreasing expenses associated with extracurricular activities.

On another financial matter, the board agreed to give principals Bill Dorethy, Seth Klusmeyer and Jerry Ellerman the same salary increases that certified and non-certified employees will receive in 2013-14. This amounts to approximately 4 percent, which includes a 2.5 percent pay increase plus a 1.5 percent step increase based on years of experience.

The raises to be given certified workers were specified in a negotiated three-year contract that expires at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

In other action, the board learned a title search is being conducted to pave the way for the possible sale of the Loraine Elementary School building. Robertson said a resolution is expected to be approved at the board's March 20 meeting authorizing the sale of the building by sealed bids, which are to be opened in May.

An open house for prospective bidders will be scheduled at some point prior to the sale, Robertson said.

As reported last month in The Quincy Herald-Whig, the board is considering selling Loraine Elementary School as a possible way to save money in light of declining state funding. The Loraine building has been shuttered the past two years.

Meanwhile, the board continues to explore the feasibility of adding onto Mendon Elementary School, which could lead to the eventual closure of Greenfield Elementary School.

At last week's meeting, the board met with Tony Crane of Architechnics to review a building project originally proposed in 2002 that would have consolidated all grades from prekindergarten through fifth at Mendon Elementary. This proposal had an original pricetag of $4.5 million when it was rejected by voters in a 2002 referendum. If undertaken today, the same project would have a pricetag of about $8.5 million, Robertson said.

In other action, the board approved the school calendar for the 2013-14 school year. The calendar calls for the year to begin with a teacher institute on Aug. 19 followed by a full day of classes Aug. 20. The schedule includes a two-week break around the Christmas/New Year holidays and calls for the last day of school to be a full day of classes on May 22, 2014, if no "emergency days" are used.