At a special meeting called for the board to discuss its financial picture, interim superintendent Dr. Barbara Suelter explained that she has recently received a call from a Normal-based group expressing interest in purchasing the former Franklin Elementary School.
She said the group had also talked to previous interim superintendent Lee Hovasse.
Suelter asked the board what action she should take. The building has sat vacant since the board closed it last April. Board president Mindy Olson says the consensus was to dispose of it, and she says the process will likely be similar to when District 117 sold the Lafayette building.
“Generally when you sell a facility when you’re a school district or a government entity, there are certain ways you have to do that. When we sold Lafayette, [we] basically put an advertisement for bids out there, people came in, and if they were interested in it, then they put bids almost like a silent auction. And then at a designated time, you open up the bids. Whoever basically has the highest bid buys the building,” says Olson.
“There’s parameters set forth on there. That’s probably along the same lines of what we would look with for Franklin, unless we had a governmental entity that was interested; then you could potentially sell it directly to the governmental entity,” she adds.
Numbers for what it’s costing to maintain ownership of the Franklin building weren’t immediately available. The school district estimated it would save $200,000 when it closed. The closure was part of $1.4-million in cuts.
With the district still facing a multimillion-dollar deficit, the school board continued to look at budget reduction options last night. No action was taken, and no specific proposals were made. The board told Suelter that everything is on the table.
“One of the things that we’re trying to look at is kind of a memory jogger to remember what all they started looking at last year in the way of cuts,” says Suelter. “We’re revisiting last year’s items that were on the potential cut list but were not cut, and so we’re looking at them again- should we go ahead with those? Should we not?”
The focus of last night’s meeting was for the administrative staff to get a clearer picture from board members on what direction they want to go for the budget.
Assistant superintendent Carol Kilver distributed a list of items in the educational and operations funds and asked board members to check off categories they fell under- for example, they could indicate that they thought that the driver’s ed program has a high student impact, or that pre-K programs are part of the district’s long-term plan.
“Basically what we’re looking at is taking our recommendations for budget cuts and looking at where they fit into the overall picture of the budget so we have a very clear and comprehensive understanding of what it is that we’re doing when we look at reductions, realignment, [and] basically for just an actual elimination of something within our budget,” says Kilver. “So, we are helping put those things into categories.”
District 117 is deficit-spending to the tune of $2.2 million. Chief financial officer Lori Niemeier told the board that if salaries continue to rise and revenues continue to decrease, the district’s fund balance will be depleted within two years.
The board will continue to look at the school district’s budget next month in both special meetings and its regularly-scheduled get-together.
Also yesterday, an electoral board including school board members Craig Albers and Steve Cantrell issued a final decision overruling an objection to the candidacies of Olson and school board hopeful Matthew Johnson last night.
The objection based on alleged problems with their nominating petitions was filed by fellow candidate Anthony Stephens.
The decision was rendered on Tuesday.