The Highland School Board approved a tentative tax levy of around $18.6 million, a 2.55 percent increase over last year’s levy of about $18.11 million.
The tentative levy was presented by the district’s Business Manager Tim Bair during the board meeting on Nov. 27.
However, the district’s tax rate is expected to decrease slightly. The tax rate would decrease by about 4 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value, from $4.86952 to $4.82630. EAV is is the taxable value of all property, land and buildings, within the district.
For a home owner with a house that had a fair market value of $75,000, it would be a $10.81 cut to the school’s property tax bill; a $150,000 home, a $21.61 cut; a $225,00 home, $32.41; and a $300,000 home, $43.22, assuming the value of the home did not go up over the prior year.
But these number all depend on what the EAV actually will be. Bair said the district’s EAV is up about 1 percent, according to initial data from the county assessors.
“I am going with a high figure for Bond County, as they have not provided any solid numbers yet,” Bair said.
Bair said he prepared the tentative levy at an EAV increase of 3.60 percent to provide some cushion for unreported properties and/or adjustments due to changes in final multipliers and increased farmland assessments in Bond county.
The district is estimating its total EAV at about $384.8 million ($368.9 million in Madison County, $15.7 million in Bond County, and $165,808 in Montgomery County). That would be a 3 percent increase in Madison County, a 4.09 percent increase in Montgomery County and a 20.12 percent increase in Bond County.
Bair also said that he maintained the district’s pensions, legal and debt services levies again to position the district for potential tax caps.
The Highland School Board will approve the final 2017 tax levy for at its December meeting.
Other board business
Sales tax resolution approved
The board voted to support a county-wide 1 cent sales tax increase for the 2018 March election ballot.
It is estimated that if passed, the tax could generate about $1.7 million in revenue for the Highland School District and about $40 million for county schools, according to Superintendent Mike Sutton.
By law, the money can only be used to build new facilities, buy land, repair existing facilities, technology infrastructure, or purchase durable equipment (non-movable items). The money can also be used to retire existing debt incurred for such purposes.
The money cannot be used for salaries, operating costs, text books, buses, furniture, etc.
The tax is only applicable to products currently subject to other taxation, namely smaller consumer goods. Products not subject to the tax include automobiles, boats, ATVs, RVs, mobile homes, agriculture machinery and inputs, groceries and medicine.
To get on the ballot, Sutton said the resolution needs to be passed 50 percent of the students represented have to adopt the resolution. Several boards across the county will vote on the resolution during their December meetings.
Five-year facilities plan amended
The board approved an amended five-year facility plan. The amendment adds two years on to the existing plan, as well as adds more facility projects totaling about $737,318.
The plan also includes a list of proposed projects at Highland High School. These projects have been mentioned in the past and will be discussed over time.
Future Farmers of America students gave a presentation to the board about their two most recent trips to New York and Indianapolis.
About 20 students arrived in New York at 3 p.m. on Oct. 6. There were about 12 students on the trip from the Highland FFA chapter. Over the four-day trip, the students visited the Empire State Building, Central Station, Hell’s Kitchen Food Pantry, the U.S. Naval Ship Yard, a fresh vegetable market, the Rockefeller Estate, Hudson Pines Farm, and the 9/11 museum.
The students also took a trip to Times Square to watch the play “The School of Rock,” and went on a boat tour around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
About 2 1/2 weeks later, 17 Highland FFA students were a part of the 105 FFA students from section 15 to attend the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. The students said that about 67,000 people attended the event, which was Oct. 25-27.
The students attended a two career fairs, watched a speech given by Laila Ali, Muhammed Ali’s daughter, attended a Rascal Flatts concert and went to Fountain Square to go through several different haunted houses. The trip ended with a tour of Kelsay Farms LLC, a large dairy farm in Indiana.
Highland FFA students and alumni will also be traveling to Ireland July 2-10, 2018.
The board approved the following new personnel:
▪ Batiesha Klostermann as a part-time program assistant at Highland Primary School, effective on Oct. 23.
▪ Alexa Moss as a program assistant at Highland Primary School, effective Nov. 6.
Benefit plan approved
The board approved the district’s flexible benefit plan. Sutton said the plan allows district employees to shelter medical costs from taxes by making a monthly payment.
Audit services approved
The board approved a three-year proposal from CJ Schlosser for audit services.
CJ Schlosser has conducted the district’s financial audit for a number of years. For the new contract, the district’s Business Manager Tim Bair said the first year shows a 2.5 percent increase over the 2016-2017 fee.
“They have done the audit for several years and do a nice job,” Bair said in a memo.
According to the agreement the district’s gross fee will not exceed $8,050, $8,300 and $8,550 for the years ending on June 30 for 2018, 2019, 2017. Sutton said that the district has one of the lowest audit cost in the country.
HMS membership approved
The board approved a Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) membership for Highland Middle School.
Sutton said this membership will allow middle school students additional opportunities to compete in cheer, chess, scholar bowl, and other events. The cost to join is $75, with an additional $75 per activity. The cost to join would be paid through the school’s concession sales revenue.
The board approved a memorandum of understanding with the Highland Education Association, the teachers union, regarding the Three Circle Agricultural grant.
The grant opportunity allows districts to employ agricultural teachers for 12 months by picking up the cost of the salary for the extended year. The purpose is to improve retention of agricultural teachers in education.
Sutton said Rene Barr, an FFA advisor and industrial education teacher at the high school, is the only staff member applying for this grant. The other two teachers are currently on the retirement program, capping their salary increases, according to Sutton.