After voting 4-3 at its December 13 meeting to reduce its tax levy by 25%, or over $ 416,000, the Joppa-Maple Grove School Board met again on Monday, December 20 at a special meeting to consider modifying this decision. .
After just over two hours filled with many questions from the nearly 80 people in attendance, the board of directors came to a compromise, voting 6-1 on a $ 1.5 million tax levy with a decrease to the extension of about 15%.
At her November 22 meeting, Superintendent Vickie Artman presented to council three sample worksheets illustrating an interim tax levy for 2021 payable in 2022. The examples included explanations of how each would affect the tax rate and taxpayers. The examples included one increase and two decreases in the total amount of the extension.
The tax extension is the actual amount generated by property taxes. This is the extension of the previous year plus the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus the new property.
About 30 people attended the December 13 meeting in which Artman and district accountant Justin Miller recommended a withdrawal of $ 1,657,050, an extended decrease of $ 115,196.88, explaining that this option does not ‘would not lead to an increase in property tax for taxpayers. Several of those in attendance addressed the board ahead of Kevin Castleman’s motion to accept the recommendation.
When that vote failed with four board members voting against, Corey Willenborg proposed a 23.489% drop in the levy, which would drop the extension from $ 1,772,246.88 to $ 1,355,959, a loss net of $ 416,287.88. The motion passed 4-3 with Danny Burnett, Rachel Henson, Willenborg, Denise Meyer voting for, while Peggy McNeill, Castleman and Chris McGinness voting against.
Two days later, a special meeting to consider changing the levy was scheduled for Monday, December 20.
The tax levy is the amount of money that a tax body asks to be generated by the property tax. This is an estimate based on income requirements and what is permitted by law. It is slightly overestimated to include any new, unknown property. If a new property is missed, it cannot be recovered the following year. The levy is adopted and certified by the county clerk for the following fiscal year. Locally, the request must be submitted to the clerk of the county of Massac on the last Tuesday in December of each year.
In addition to the school board – McGinness was present by phone – Miller was present at the December 20 meeting. Dr. William Phillips, consultant to MidWest School Consultants at the University of Illinois-Springfield, participated via Zoom. District Attorney Barney Mundorf is present by phone.
Public comments to the board focused on the closeness that students in the district have not only to each other, but also to their teachers and school staff. Expressing the reduction of $ 416,000 that would close the district, they wondered why such a large deduction had been passed and asked the board of directors to wait for the publication of the results of its three feasibility studies.
J-MG is currently involved in three separate feasibility studies with Massac County Unit 1, Vienne High School and Century School District. Artman told the meeting that Massac and Century’s studies should be ready by March and Vienna by May.
Stacey Reames, a JHS graduate and former school board member, said she was “really shocked” at the December 13 meeting she attended four members “voted for a tax levy that was not not only against the superintendent and the financial district expert opinion of the consultant, but would not provide enough income to continue operating in the long term. This means that the whole district, including Maple Grove, would not be able to function . As members of the board of directors, you have a responsibility to all stakeholders in the district. The definition of stakeholders is not limited to taxpayers. Stakeholders in this district include students, staff and the community .
These three, she said, are something she’s heard “very little” talk about.
“You are members of the board of directors of a school. You are supposed to provide the children in this district with a quality education to help them become students and successful adults, ”she said. “Over the past few years, I have heard several of you say that you are here for the children, but your actions do not necessarily support that.”
Reames praised Artman and Miller for their “hard work in finding a compromise that would benefit all of these stakeholders.” You came up with a plan, based on meetings with the county assessor, that would not increase the tax rate but still give you enough funds to operate. I think this is an excellent compromise.
Reames suggested that one-time ESSER funding “if accountability is used, can help sustain the district until the feasibility studies approved by the board can be completed and reviewed, leaving up to each more time to make wise future decisions for all our stakeholders.
“We don’t know what other future costs we might incur – labor negations, insurance, inflation, costly maintenance issues,” she continued. “The cut you made was just too deep. … Could your business survive on 25% less? To put it in perspective, the average income for the County of Massac is $ 40,000 per year, which is a reduction of $ 10,000 from gross salary. … I encourage you to ask questions so that you fully understand the problem and the ramifications of your vote before you vote it.
Willenborg said he was not trying to close the school, that he had chatted with Miller and Artman for hours about the numbers presented at the November 22 meeting, noting that they showed a balanced budget was his reasoning behind his motion and his vote of December 13.
Phillips said that in his 40 years of working with the state’s school systems, he’s never seen a district ask for a cut in its levy, let alone a nearly 25% drop. Miller and Phillips pointed out that once this reduction is made, it is almost impossible to recover it, especially since Massac County is a tax-capped county. The tax cap, or PTELL, limits the increase in the extension of the property tax to the CPI or to 5%, whichever is less. Phillips used the example of having $ 1,000 in taxes and reducing it by 25% for the following year. As of the following year, he said, future numbers are based on that $ 750, not the original $ 1,000.
The audience pleaded with the council to fight for the students in the district.
“This school is very beneficial for our children,” said Monica Little, who, as a high school student, moved from California to Joppa in 2004 and now has four children attending the district. “Our taxes are just dollars. We want this school to stay open. Do you really think about your wallets or do you think about those students? Because it really doesn’t seem like you’re thinking of our students. You are free to move wherever you want. I made sure my house was in the neighborhood. My kids started kindergarten here and will be finishing sixth grade, they should come here for junior high next year. If you are here for a reason other than our children, you do not need to be here.
Minutes before the board vote, Maple Grove teacher Amanda Rivera said, “If you do that, you’re basically setting the district up for failure whether you say it or not. We also need future textbooks that we will use this surplus (money) to buy; You do not belive it. We have several teachers who will be retiring in the next few years. What are you going to do (to replace them)? It’s already hard to have teachers, what are you going to tell them so that they come to our neighborhood while we are preparing for failure? Teachers are not going to stay here to be part of a dying neighborhood. I love your children and want to see their growth, but I have my own family to worry about. You are going to lose good teachers because no teacher is going to come or stay in a neighborhood that will eventually close in the next few years. “
Castleman brought forward a motion to set the tax levy at $ 1,657,050, with an extension loss of $ 115,000. He failed 3-3-1 with McNeill, Castleman and McGinness for; Burnett, Willenborg and Meyer versus; and Henson abstaining.
McNeill then put forward a motion to consider changing the 2021 tax levy, which everyone voted on.
After further discussion within the board, Castleman brought forward another motion to set the tax levy at $ 1.5 million, a 15% extension loss. He went 6-1 with Meyer against and McNeill, Castleman, McGinness, Burnett, Willenborg and Henson in favor.
In other business at its regular meeting on December 13, the board:
• Approval of the hiring of certified special education teacher Jennifer Larrison.
• Approved the hiring of long-term part-time occasional teachers, Beth Whitney and Melissa Bound.
• Approved the resignation of Certified Employee Lacey Wright, effective January 6, 2022. “With great sadness, the Board accepted the resignation. She leaves education to help with her husband’s affairs. We wish him the best, ”Artman said.
• Approved the annual property tax relief grant application and its submission to the Illinois State Board of Education.
• Approved minutes of closed sessions for the past six months (June 2021 to November 2021) remain closed.
• And, approved the first reading of a partial list of Press Plus policies – Issue 108.
The next regular meeting of the Joppa-Maple Grove School Board will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, January 24, 2022, at the JHS Library.