Questions and Answer about Potential Reorganization between PORTA and AC Central
by Matt Brue
February 23, 2012
District Reorganization Questions and Answers.
The PORTA Board of Education would like to have a running dialogue with district families on the issues surrounding a possible reorganization with the AC School District. In an effort to educate both the Board and Community on questions and concerns in regards to a potential reorganization, the Board would like to maintain an ongoing question and answer section in the Observer and on the PORTA Website. We invite you to participate in this forum by emailing your questions to Superintendent Brue, mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mailing your questions to 17651 Bluejay Road % Superintendent’s office, Petersburg IL. 62675.
We would like to thank John T. Bowen for the series of questions and comments in this first addition of Reorganization questions and answers.
Q: As a concerned parent of two kids within the PORTA School System, I don't want to jump to conclusions to this thought of Reorganization. But on the surface, I have concerns. Can you tell me outside of a broader tax base, what true benefits do we achieve in combining school systems?
A: Ok, the true benefit I see is that the programs we currently offer here at PORTA will remain and when I say programs I am talking about curricular, as well as extra curricular programs. We have known for some time that if our decreasing enrollment continued our High School programs would be negatively effected. We are now at that point. Without students we see reduced revenue from the State of Illinois, with those reductions we are quickly coming to a spot in the road where we will need to reduce staff at the High School level and: therefore, would be cutting programs that are important to our students' futures. Over the past 4 years we have reduced our staff by 10 members, all through attrition. People in the community are largely unaware of these reductions because there has been very little change in the curriculum available. To, date, the majority of reductions in teachers has been at the elementary level, where reductions in enrollment began.
Q: Is it possible that we will bus kids from Petersburg, Ashland, and/or Chandlerville to one another's physical schools?
A: The primary traveling that would take place would be High School Students from AC to PORTA.
Q: Does it reduce administration costs by combining the two corporations?
A: If there were reorganization, I would perceive that we would reduce staff, administration and a building in the A-C Central District. Our Board and I believe that if an attempt at reorganization occurs reductions must occur so that the new district is as efficient as possible.
Q: Does this just allow for better results on extracurricular activities? I disagree that activities outside of a standard school activities truly create a well-rounded student. I believe in a more formal and rigid offer of learning and less emphasis on achieving awards for a display case.
A: If we cannot find a way to increase our student population we will need to cut curricular and extra curricular programs. I realize you don't believe those outside programs are as beneficial, but I will tell you that we have several students move in each year and the first thing their families ask about is our extra-curricular offerings. So, all do not share your sentiments, and our board needs to balance that when tough decisions are to be made.
Q: As a former School Board member in Indiana (Frankton-Lapel School Corporation), combining townships can work, but there are exponential costs in travel pay, busing, etc... that can only be estimated until the true costs happen. I believe it will eventually raise taxes on our economy. As a true conservative I want my taxes to go down. Any option to raise those taxes I will always vote No.
A: As far as taxes, I believe our tax rate would stay the same and if my data is correct a consolidated district would earn $200,000 more in General State aid, based on 2009 financial data. Believe it or not our rate is one of the lowest in the area, unfortunately our EAV is one of the highest. A-C Central's tax rate is nearly 80cents higher than ours and with a merger their rate would drop considerably. I have to agree with you, that we do not want to raise taxes.
Q: Are there any other options besides reaching outside of the 5 communities that already are part of the PORTA tradition? If the school system changes this drastic, I believe you will all loose support of the communities for 5 - 10 years because of the already created tradition. People don't accept change that easy. If it is a financial concern, then look at cutting programs that aren't necessary for a good quality and well-rounded education. I would be more than happy to discuss on the phone or in email correspondence.
Kindest Regards, John T Bowen BA, MS
A: Other options are cutting programs or raising taxes, both not real palatable for our Board and me.
A little information about the process of consolidation or reorganization? This is a very long and public process, the meeting on February 8th was merely an opportunity for the two boards to meet and understand each other's situation better. After the February 8th meeting a decision would need to be made to ask the voters to reorganize and during that process and prior to the vote a committee of “Ten” would need to convene. The committee of "Ten" would deal with many of the questions you have asked, but most importantly set a new tax rate, recommend programming, staffing, administration numbers and facility usage. This committee would also be responsible for determining whether financially, socially or politically placing a question on the ballot was warranted. So, we are a long ways from making any crucial decisions.
The PORTA Board and I encourage all of our public to participate in this forum. If you have a question, regardless of your beliefs about reorganization, please mail to: email@example.com for the Superintendent and ask your questions. We will continue to add these questions to the publication with answers so that everyone can have the opportunity to hear great questions and our answers.
Thank you again.