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Van-Far board votes to put tax levy issue on ballot

Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 11:15 am

Van-Far R-I board members Dana Keller, left, and Larry Wheeler, right, during last week’s school board meeting. Both members were joined by Justin Hopke and Pete Nasir in voting to put Proposition A on the April ballot.

By a 4-2 vote, the Van-Far R-I School Board approved a measure during last week’s monthly board meeting to place the Proposition A tax levy increase issue back on the ballot, seeking approval from voters on April 3.
Board members Larry Wheeler, Dana Keller, Pete Nasir, and Justin Hopke voted “Yes” while board President Kevin Motley and Jim Hopke voted “No.” Dr. Greg Frost was not present for the meeting.
Proposition A asks voters to provide a $.58 increase to increase the operating amount to 3.9608.
“If we don’t do something, we maintain status quo, which is not in the best interest of our students,” said Board Vice-President Dana Keller.
She noted that there are still textbooks needing to be updated and technology possibilities.
Superintendent Dr. Hunter said his concern is that if the district runs something and the revenues get worse, the district would need to put another proposition for another amount later.
Before a vote was taken, Van-Far Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hunter suggested for the board to wait to put the item on the ballot due to the uncertainty of finances at the state level.
He also anticipates the situation to be clearer next year.
He did say the district’s finances are doing okay this year, but with state money, it’s a “moving target.”
Keller’s concerned that a ballot proposition later would result in it being run to catch up revenue instead of moving forward.
Board member Pete Nasir said there should be a budget for what the money generated would be spent on specifically.
While Superintendent Dr. Hunter expressed a cautious approach, Keller said she appreciates it but doesn’t see what has changed for the district since it put Proposition A on the ballot last August.
“What’s changed is people still ask for supplies and textbooks and we deny them,” she noted.
Superintendent Dr. Hunter said the district is working within the budget that was set and textbook budgets were increased a little.
“We can make a laundry list of wishes,” Superintendent Dr. Hunter said.
“We’re never going to move forward sitting where we’re at,” Keller added. “…And if we have any desires to get to where we saw today, our community’s going to have to support these kids; they’re going to have to.”
Keller was referencing technology usage in the Knox County School District.
“We’re going backwards,” Wheeler added.
Motley said he’d per

-sonally like for the district to wait.
“I think it’s too soon by the way the vote went last time,” Motley said.
Keller made the motion and Wheeler seconded the motion.
The board first discussed the possibility of putting the consideration of the ballot addition on the January meeting agenda during the December meeting.
Last August, Van-Far R-I School District voters officially voted down a possible tax levy increase by about 50 votes.
It is believed a passed increase will generate around $250,000 for the district. With enrollment in decline, the district is not receiving as much revenue as it had in the past due to a lower number of students.
State revenues heading to Van-Far have decreased approximately $500,000 during the past five to six years.
Meanwhile, health insurance costs of doubled in eight of the last 10 years.
There is also a potential loss of approximately $270,000 in AmerenUE dollars in 2020 looming.

Superintendent Reports
Superintendent Dr. Hunter noted that enrollment was 571 students, with 266 in the Jr./Sr. High School and 305 in the Elementary School. With the Pre-K, the total is 616.
In regards to transportation, he noted that Transportation Director Charlie Stroker worked on specs and was ready to send them out to bus companies with a February 13 deadline. He also looked into a suburban or similar vehicle and had found a few, but they were either too high of cost and/or too high mileage.
Board candidate filings include incumbents Dr. Greg Frost, Pete Nasir and new candidates Tony Dameron and Joni Barnett.
Superintendent Dr. Hunter handed MSBA Certificates to each board member to recognize them for their service to the board and the district.
He also expressed appreciation to the board members.

Principal Reports
Van-Far Jr./Sr. High Principal Kim Pafford noted that Courtwarming is February 2 in her report.
She also noted that the school will host the next ACT Test on February 10 and the FFA BBQ is February 24.
She also noted the REALL simulation with sophomores and a January 25 meeting with the Hart Career Center.
Van-Far Elementary Principal Brian Hummel noted that the 2nd grade students will be on the KOMU daily morning pledge. Mrs. Trower’s Class will air on January 23 and Ms. Blattel’s will air on February 1.
He also noted there is a LEAD-a-thon February 5-23.
Myra Collins, from the Northeast RPDC, will be at the school on January 23 and February 2.
Principal Hummel talked about the use of i-pads in the Knox County School District and the hopes Van-Far could have something similar to that in the future.
Keller also gave a report on the visit. She noted how it helps the students to show emotion, an interactive activity with poetry, etc.
It was noted that copy paper costs went down 70% and the i-pads were on a three year lease.

The board approved the consent agenda. It included adopting the agenda, approving the minutes from the December 18 meeting, the financial statement, authorization to pay bills, self-evaluations, guidance, and health.
Principal Pafford noted that the boys basketball team won the Madison Tournament for the first time in a long time.
Kay Bunge gave a report on the VFTA meeting. She briefly discussed some things being done for the VFTA Carnival. She also questions inquiring about the use of a two hour delay due to recent weather issues.
The board approved the MSBA 2017C Policy Updates with the exceptions of Policy KG and Policy IL.
There was a prior concern with the last paragraph, which has been removed.
As DESE previously paid for the ACT Test for all juniors but their funding has ended, the board unanimously approved a measure to offer either the ACT or Work Keys for each student once during their high school academic career at the school’s expense.
The board approved the resignation of Penny Copelin at the end of the school year.
In reports of members, Nasir suggested visiting the General Assembly website to become informed about pending bills.
Some could be beneficial to the district, but others not, particularly HB 1925, which could impact teachers.