As the state legislature continues to battle over Senate Bill 1, Chester District 139 is taking steps to try and keep its doors open this school year.
During a special meeting on Friday, the Chester school board approved a $750,000 line of credit at Buena Vista National Bank, an amount Superintendent Brian Pasero hopes will get the district by until county tax funds come in.
"We kind of took a measured approach in anticipating our local money to come in at the end of August, early September, so it's kinda biding us some time to get there," Pasero said to local media after the meeting. "You don't want to take out way more than necessary and just be sitting on that paying a bunch of interest on it.
"Certainly, it will helps us get through August and then hopefully, the tax mail will come in and we've got a Senate Bill 1 passed, which would be a benefit for Chester as originated."
Randolph County Treasurer Justin Jeffers told the Herald Tribune he expects the first distribution of the tax funds to school districts will take place around Aug. 23.
"The first installment is due on Aug. 16 and after that day, we will work diligently to get that money to the school districts and other taxing districts as fast as we can," he said.
Jeffers said he projects Chester to receive slightly more than $3.2 million in property tax receipts for this fiscal year, with a third of that coming in the first installment.
The deadline for the first general state aid checks to be sent to school districts is Aug. 10. When Gov. Bruce Rauner made his amendatory veto of SB 1 on Aug. 1, it sent the bill back to the legislature for discussion.
In that scenario, the state Senate gets 15 days to take action on the bill, otherwise it dies. If the Senate takes action, it goes to the House for another 15 days.
Ultimately, lawmakers have to decide whether to accept Rauner's changes to SB 1 (which isn't considered likely), try to override them or do nothing and essentially start over.
"Certainly, we're very concerned and as a district, I know we're very concerned," Pasero said. "We rely significantly on our state aid, so it's upsetting to see that they have not gotten this ironed out.
"From everything I've heard, (the amendatory veto) has significantly changed the bill from what the Senate sent over."
Pasero also didn't sound too optimistic that a resolution would come quickly.
"My guess is, and of course it's completely a guess, is that we've got a long way to go," he said. "But you never know."
Prior to the meeting, the board - with only members Tom Welge, Mitch Hammel, Debi Caraway and Trent Vasquez present - held a public hearing for the submission of an application to the Illinois State Board of Education to waive the limitation on administrative costs for the 2016-17 school year.
According to the state school code, a school district's budgeted administrative expenditures cannot increase more than 5 percent from the previous year's actual administrative expenditures.
Otherwise, that requires a public hearing and a waiver. Districts pursuing the waiver have 45 days to notify ISBE, with paperwork due by Nov. 15.
During the hearing, Pasero said the district was pursuing the waiver due to having two interim superintendents - Bill Riley and Rick Goodman - during the 2015-16 school year that totaled $100,000, and Goodman's full-time salary of $120,000 during 2016-17.
No members of the public attended the hearing and submission of the waiver was approved during the meeting that followed.
In other news, the board met for about a half hour in executive session to discuss collective bargaining with the Chester Education Association, which represents the district's teachers.
Pasero was asked for an update on negotiations.
"I'm not at liberty to say," he said. "As with any other negotiations, we kind of keep that in-house until it's all settled. No comment."
In personnel matters, the board approved the resignation of Judy Wolters as Chester High School business teacher, effective immediately. Wolters recently took a position in the Perandoe Special Education District.
"On staff, we don't have anybody that we're anticipating to jump right in there," Pasero said. "We put out notices on the opening and we're currently trying to find somebody to fill that spot."
Pasero added he hoped the district would find a new business teacher soon.
"Certainly, that's an added stress when you're getting ready to start the year," he said.
The following items were approved by the board:
• Amending the 2017-18 school calendar to reflect Aug. 21 as a non-student attendance day and May 17, 2018 as the last day of school.
• John Oglesby as CHS volunteer football coach. Oglesby is the father-in-law to head coach Billy Belton.
• The resignation of Layla Kaspar as Chester Grade School paraprofessional, effective immediately.
• The hourly rate of Elisha Gaertner as CHS head cook at $10.25 per hour for the 2017-18 school year. The board discussed setting a precedence with Gaertner's reimbursement.
"It's not fair for her to come in at the same rate as everybody else, as she's in charge of ordering all the paperwork as head cook," Hammel said.