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District 1 to reduce budget by $1M during next four years

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST

COAL CITY – The Coal City School Board may have to make some tough decisions as it prepares for a $1 million budget reduction during the next four years.

Like several school districts in Illinois, Coal City Community Unit School District 1 is faced with declining revenues.

“The board is well aware of the fact that there will be some revenue shortages in the future,” Kent Bugg, superintendent of the school district, said Thursday. “They’re just trying to plan ahead so we don’t get hit with those all at once.”

Each year, the state has paid out less in public aid to schools, only delivering 89 percent of this year’s promised amount. Bugg said the district is also confronting a declining equalized assessed value in its taxing district, which influences how much the school can levy from taxpayers.

The district is still negotiating a new five-year contract with Dresden Station – the district’s largest tax contributor – to lock in the station’s levy amount but expects it will be less than it was in previous years. The previous contract expired in 2011.

“Sixty-seven percent of our revenue comes from taxes generated by the Dresden Nuclear Power Station,” Bugg said. “We are very uncertain what our revenues are going to be from them moving forward.”

The $1 million cut will happen in $250,000 increments every school year, with the first cut coming out of the 2014-15 budget, Bugg said.

At Wednesday’s school board study session, the board discussed how it could trim the budget for next year. The district’s hazardous bus routes and after-school assistance program are two areas the board will be re-evaluating.

“Every bus route costs this district $33,000 and we run 32 regular [education] bus routes,” Bugg said. “If we can reduce two or three of those, that’s $100,000 in savings.”

The district currently offers bus service to children who live within a mile and a half of their school building if the student lives in a “hazardous area,” Bugg said, meaning they do not have a safe, walkable path to school.

If a child has no sidewalks or must cross a railroad track to get to school, their area could be deemed hazardous, which was the case for several Coal City children when the hazardous bus routes were created, Bugg said.

“The board has not reviewed their bus routes in a long time,” Bugg said. “Since that time, a lot of houses have been built near the schools in the last 10 years. As a result, a lot of sidewalks have been put in.”

Bugg said they will be evaluating the routes and any other programs that may no longer be necessary.

“We are trying to run the district as efficiently as possible,” Bugg said.

No impact fee for tornado victims

Tornado victims needing to rebuild their homes will have one less thing to worry about now that Coal City School District will not be collecting the land cash and facilities fees typically charged to homebuilders.

“This a little piece of good news for those families who already have enough to worry about,” said Shawn Hamilton, Coal City School Board member. “Every little bit helps.”

Coal City residents building new homes must pay fees to the school district that are used to purchase new land or update the existing facilities, Hamilton said.

For a three-bedroom home, the combined fees can be around $5,000, Bugg said.

The board reached out to the district’s attorney to see if they could have the fees waived or somehow rebate the funds back to the victims.

“[The memorandum said] because these subdivisions were platted before the fees were put in place, those individual will not have to pay them,” Hamilton said. “They’re safe.”

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