School board discusses report card, enrollment, and financial overview

PAW PAW – Paw Paw School board held a meeting in Nov. 18.

Board members Sandra Heiman, Dawn Foster and Kristel Schlorff received an Illinois Association of School Boards certificate for completing additional School Board training.

The School Report Card was reviewed and analyzed. Due to the deactivation of the high school, the data was compiled by using K-6 and 7-12 information, with limited information available for grades 7-12. Thus, the data is slightly skewed. A conference call with the State Board has been scheduled to try to correct some of the reporting problems that currently exist. They hope to include Indian Creek on the call so that both districts are receiving the same information.

The overall school enrollment has been declining. For the elementary school, the state average class size is 22 while Paw Paw’s average class size is 12. Thirty-two percent of their students are low-income and 17 percent of their students have Individualized Education Plans; both of these figures are equal to State averages. Spending per pupil is reported, but there is no state comparison as had been true in the past. Math and English Language Arts test results were lower than the State average. The test results qualify Paw Paw Schools for extra resources funded by the State. A consultant assigned by the State Board will assist us in analyzing our data and helping with the development of a comprehensive school improvement plan. There will also be support in the areas of curriculum development and professional development.

The Board was provided with a financial overview. Eighty-four percent of the funding comes from local sources (primarily property taxes), 4 percent from the federal government, and 12 percent from the State. For the current year, the district has a balanced budget with revenues and expenditures being nearly equal. They are hoping to receive $450,000 in additional revenue generated by the new wind turbines. The Board reviewed a letter from the district auditor with no negative findings.

Due to the early onset of winter weather, the roof replacement for the elementary wing will not be completed until March or April. A few areas will be repaired right away, but the roof replacement will be completed in the spring. There are loose floor tiles in the elementary wing which may be replaced during the summer. The damaged downspouts around the cafeteria are causing seepage, which will be repaired and the exterior will be regraded to try to drain water away from the building.

The Senior trip was discussed. The high school classes have funds that they earned from fundraising events during their time at Paw Paw. Some of these funds will be used to pay for the three students who will participate in the I.C. senior class trip. There was discussion on the students now beginning to raise funds at I.C. and what to do with funds raised by they lower-classes while they were at Paw Paw. Once the Board makes a decision, a letter will be sent out to the affected students regarding the Paw Paw fundraising balances and how they will be used for student trips.

Superintendent Epperson brought up the possibility of late starts to the school day in case of inclement weather during the night, but with improved conditions predicted later in the morning. No decision was made since parents have not been advised of this as a possibility. Epperson indicated he would not be using this approach without input from parents.

The School Improvement Committee reported that transparency between staff and the Board has improved. The Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) and professional development opportunities were discussed. The possibility of regular early-release days for staff development and curriculum planning being included in next year’s calendar was brought up.

Superintendent Epperson suggested that it might be a good idea to secure a human resources firm to help the district stay in compliance with the various labor and insurance regulations that are constantly changing. There could be some savings because the human resources firms could be consulted rather than the district’s attorney when questions arise. Other discussion topics included revised job descriptions for support staff, a facility maintenance plan intended to help prioritize projects.

The staff completed an informal survey of student home internet access. Approximately 10 percent of the students do not have internet access at home and several other students indicated their home internet access was slow or inconsistent. The survey was conducted in response to recent discussions related to the possibility of implementing eLearning Days when the weather is bad rather than just closing school and making the days up at the end of the year. There was consensus that it is probably too late to implement eLearning Days this year, but Superintendent Epperson indicated he would check out the prices for internet hot spots that could be used by families that do not have internet access at home. Teachers will also be consulted to determine obstacles exist for possible future implementation of eLearning Days.

The idea of 8th graders wearing graduation gowns during their ceremony was discussed. No decision was made, but Mrs. Phillips indicated she would obtain prices for the gowns and report back to the Board in December.

The eighth grade trip on May 1 to various activity venues in the Orland Park, Frankfort area was approved.

The annual tax levy was approved, allowing our district to request appropriation of needed funds for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Superintendent Epperson indicated that the levy increase is due primarily to the new wind turbines being added to the district’s tax base.

The memorandum of understanding with Paw Paw Education Association stipends was approved.

The health insurance renewal recommended by the Northern Illinois Employee Benefits Trust was approved with United Healthcare continuing as the health insurance provider.

An amendment to the Trane project related to roof repairs was approved.

Contracts for Dr. Lynn Gibson and Dr. Steve Epperson to serve as co-interim superintendents for the 2nd semester were approved.

Understanding the Paw Paw Schools Property Tax Levy

PAW PAW – The Paw Paw CUSD 271 Board of Education adopted a tentative tax levy at their meeting on Nov. 18. The levy is really just a request for revenue to operate the school district. There are two parts to the levy. The first part of the levy is related to revenue from what is called “existing property.” Existing property consists of homes, businesses, and farmland that were taxed during the previous year. The Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (commonly called tax caps) limits increases in revenue from existing property to the CPI or 5 percent, whichever is less. For this levy (which impacts taxes to be paid in 2020), the CPI used for calculations is 1.9 percent. This does not necessarily mean that the property taxes for everyone who owns existing property will go up exactly 1.9 percent. There can be variations in assessments and other factors, but overall, the Paw Paw Schools will receive about a 1.9 percent increase in revenue from existing property.

The second part of the levy is related to funding from what is called “new construction.” New construction consists of new homes, improvements to existing homes, and in the case of the Paw Paw Schools, the construction of the new wind turbines that are located in the district. Under tax caps, revenue from new construction is provided to school districts in addition to the revenue from existing property. The new wind turbines have now been added to the school district tax base and this has significantly increased the revenue available to operate the school district.

Understand that the vast majority of this increase is due to the new wind turbines that have been added to the tax base and the majority of the increase will be paid by the owners of the wind turbines. Unless you have made improvements to your property or your property has been reassessed for one reason or another, your property tax increase should be somewhere around 1.9 percent.

The Paw Paw Board of Education will hold a levy hearing on Monday, Dec. 16, at 6:45 p.m. at the school and the public is invited to provide feedback to the Board. The 2019 property tax levy will be approved during the Board meeting that will follow the levy hearing. If you have questions about the property tax levy, please do not hesitate to contact Steve Epperson, superintendent, at (815) 627-2841 or via email at [email protected]