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Consolidation ‘issues’ arise with East Coloma

Board will meet with Nelson’s to discuss tax cap, other concerns

ROCK FALLS – The East Coloma School Board passed a resolution Wednesday to pursue consolidation with Nelson Elementary School District, but stopped short of signing a petition to consolidate.

“Some issues have come up,” Superintendent Kevin Andersen said.

The board must submit such a petition to the Whiteside County Regional Office of Education by the week of Oct. 8 to get the process rolling so consolidation could take place by fall 2013.

Board members did not sign the petition because it must have the names of 10 people from both school boards, who will form a committee of 10, five from each district. The committee would decide how a consolidated district’s board would be elected and set the tax rate for a new district.

The petition was missing the signature of one Nelson representative, East Coloma Superintendent Kevin Andersen said.

“Some issues have come up that have made some people nervous,” and he’d like as many of his board members as possible to meet with the Nelson board next week, Andersen said.

The Nelson board meets Wednesday, and he’d like his board members to attend, he said.

“We want to make sure everybody feels good about going forward.”

Andersen added that of particular concern for at least one person are “a question of the ballot” and “a question of the selection of the [consolidated school] board.”

Another complication, Andersen said, is that it remains undetermined whether a consolidated school district’s taxes would be capped.

Nelson Elementary School is in Lee County, which voted in 1996 to pass the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law. Whiteside County, where East Coloma sits, voted against the law in 1997, he said.

The PTELL is designed to limit the increases in property tax extensions (total taxes billed) for non-home rule taxing districts, according to the state Department of Revenue’s website.

PTELL allows a taxing district to receive a limited inflationary increase in tax extensions on existing property, plus an additional amount for new construction. The limit slows the growth of revenues to taxing districts when property values and assessments are increasing faster than the rate of inflation.

Andersen said he has written a letter to the state department about the issue.

Lawyers and education officials that he has spoken with have indicated that a consolidated district likely would not be tax-capped, because East Coloma would make up about 75 percent of Equalized Assessed Value of homes and provide the majority of the students, and classes would be held at East Coloma.

But the Illinois Department of Revenue would decide whether a new school district would be tax-capped, and Andersen said he does not know when they would make a decision, particularly whether they would decide before the April 2013 election. A consolidated school board would have to be elected that month for consolidation to take effect by that fall.

Consolidation efforts have yielded “an interesting few days, he said.

“Each time I think things are pretty well in place, there’s another curveball there.”

If Whiteside County Superintendent Bob Sondgeroth receives a petition by the October deadline, the next step in the consolidation process is for Sondgeroth to post notices in newspapers. A hearing will be held and the regional board will vote on the consolidation, Andersen said.

If the regional board approves it, the state board will vote on it. If the state board approves it, a referendum will be put on the ballot, Andersen said.

Also Wednesday, the board voted to accept the resignation of former board member Tara Yanes, and to appoint Pat Fortney as her replacement.

Fortney is the former principal of Washington Elementary School in Sterling.

The board also voted to approve the district’s budget for the fiscal year.

The budget has total revenues of $2,375,028 and total expenses of $2,642,949, causing a deficit of $267,921. The district will use reserve funds to cover the deficit, Andersen said.

The district’s funds are expected to have a total balance of about $1.68 million at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

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