Tuscola BOE passes budget with an $833,820 deficit

By Kendra Hennis 
The budget hearing of the Tuscola Board of Education was called to order at 7 p.m. on September 28. All board members were present for the meeting. There were no visitors present to comment on the budget. Superintendent Gary Alexander presented to the board that the budget had changed minorly from the tentative to the final presented budget. The current budget presents an $833,820 deficit for the school year. Alexander noted that this was due to the school not receiving a potential amount of $441,000 in revenue. There was also $344,101 in corporate tax money not received as well as no increase of state evidence-based funding. Alexander said that while this is not the budget he hoped to have, it could be worse. He told the board that they would have to begin finding things they can live without in order to cut costs in the schools. There were no comments from the board and they unanimously voted to approve the presented budget. 

The board then moved to regular session at 7:08 p.m. 

They began with North Ward Principal Jason Wallace’s report to the board. Wallace talked about the PBIS houses and programs, noting that it was going well and was well-received from the students and community. He said that MAP test assessments were being completed and that there are still a number of students to be assessed but that they hopefully they will have results soon. Wallace said that while remote learning has been challenging, it has also been going well. He said that it is a lot of work but he is very proud of the staff and students. He also sent a thank you to everyone who is doing the right thing and following protocols. He noted that there have been no problems so far in the school and that is all thanks to those in the community doing what they’re supposed to do. He hopes that things will be better soon and encourages everyone to keep doing well. 

TCHS Principal Steve Fiscus then gave his report to the board. Fiscus reported that cross country and golf seasons are well underway and going well. Golf has already competed at their conference tournament with regionals coming up soon. Cross country has also competed at their conference tournament and will be moving to regionals at the end of October. He also talked about upcoming sports and the ever-changing guidelines from the IEPH.  Fiscus reported a total of 89 remote learners at the high school for the first quarter. He then sent a thank you to the secretaries, staff, teachers, and Nurse Lemay for all of their hard work with keeping schools very safe to be in. Fiscus told the board that spirit week has started at the high school in honor of homecoming week. He said that he felt it was important that the students still had some fun activities for the week. Today’s festivities included dressing up like Richard Simmons in your best workout clothes as well as a bike parade down Prairie Street. If all goes according to plan, the homecoming football game is set for March 26 and the homecoming dance will be held on March 27. 

East Prairie Principal Jared Vanausdoll began his report to the board by thanking the staff, as well as specifically Mrs. Brandenburg, for all of their hard work at the school. He reported that 20 students attended band night last week and hopefully they will all get started in the music program. Vanausdoll said that they were working on MAPS testing and getting a procedure in place for remote learning students. They believe it is best for them to come into the school and complete testing. He reported that there are currently 60 remote learners at the middle school, with 20 returning the second quarter. Finally he informed the board that the student council had begun safely meeting again and had purchased banners for the light poles that will be installed soon as well as the new banners outside of the gym. 

Tuscola Superintendent Gary Alexander began his report by returning the thank you to all of the school’s hard working principals. He noted that thus far Tuscola has had zero positive staff cases and only three students have tested positive. He said that this was all thanks to the kids doing well as well as the teachers doing such a good job with following the guidelines and helping prevent the spread. He presented some apprehension about the upcoming flu season but noted that together will get through this and that he is very proud of the district. 

Alexander noted that the monthly bills are in line with an expected increase from the COVID bills. He reported that the pass-through window has been installed at East Prairie as well as finishing up of incomplete projects. Alexander reported to the board that through the Jeans Charity Fundraiser at the schools, the staff has raised $1,925 this year that two representatives from each school will decide where to donate. 

Alexander also wanted to clarify it to the board about the all sports policy from the IEPH. The IDPH has ranked basketball, football, and volleyball as medium-risk sports, which students would not currently be able to compete in. Alexander said that if we do not move to a level four before that time, there will be no competitive play for these sports. He hopes that this will change before then, and is awaiting guidance from the IEPH. 

He then reminded the board that the breakfast and lunch program has been extended for all students through the end of December. Alexander also reported the findings of the Electrical Report from East Prairie and TCHS. At EP, there is underground service with a main panel large enough for the building. However, the wiring is not and they would need to install a larger transformer. The estimated price is $200,000 without the cost of Ameren included. At the high school, they have an overhead service. However, the wiring will also need to be replaced in the school with an estimated cost of $175,000 without the cost of Ameren included. He ended congratulating board president Cathy Mannen for her recognition at the Illinois Association of School Boards virtual conference. 

The board then moved on to old business. The first order of business was in regards to the upcoming election. Alexander wanted to note that in order for ordinance at the upcoming election to be passed, it must pass in each township or 2/3 vote overall. They then moved to discuss Press Policy 105, the only change being Jason Wallace being named the Title 9 coordinator, rather than Mr. Alexander. Press Policy 105 was unanimously approved by the board.  

The board also: 

* Approved a $500 donation from Music Boosters for NW Music Program.

* Approved a $250 donation from Lyondell for EP Life Skills. 

* Approved a $75 donation from Savoy Walmart for EP Classroom-Manipulatives.

* Approved a $300 donation from Odd Fellows Tuscola Lodge No 316 for TCHS Art Club.

* Approved an anonymous $250 donation for Help a Child.

* Approved a $100 donation from Dave and Val Morgan for Help a Child.

* Approved a $250 donation from Kiwanis for TCHS Classroom-Calculators. 

* Approved a $250 donation from IL Heartland & Decorative Artists for TCHS Art Club.

* Approved a $250 donation from Frank and Marlene Lincoln for Social Skills. 

* Approved the minutes from the August 24 regular board meeting.

* Approved the minutes from the September 10 special board meeting.

* Approved the payment of bills in the amount of $860,708.61.

* Approved the monthly Treasurer’s report.

* Approved the monthly Bookkeeper’s report.

* Approved moving to closed session for the purposes defined in 5 ILCS 120/2 (c) (1)(2).

* Approved the resignation of Stan Weinke as TCHS part time teacher and assistant track coach. 

* Approved the resignation of Carrie Brian Miller from the technology department. 

* Adjourned until the October 26 board meeting at 7 p.m.

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