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GIBSON CITY — Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school board members learned Monday night that the school district’s tentative property tax levy for 2019 should result in a tax rate lower than the prior year’s — for the fourth year in a row.

The anticipated tax rate decrease results from an increase in the district’s equalized assessed valuation (EAV), not from a reduction in school funding needs.

Superintendent Jeremy Darnell estimated the district’s EAV for 2019 to be $140.8 million, up about 5 percent from the prior year. The district’s levy totals $7.9 million, an increase of 4.72 percent.

The tentative levy includes $7.4 million in taxes to be collected next summer for the district’s regular funds and $515,000 for bond and interest repayment.

Amounts projected to be levied, by fund, are: $5,071,213 (education), $704,335 (operations and maintenance), $281,734 (transportation), $70,434 (working cash), $150,000 (municipal retirement), $100,000 (Social Security), $70,434 (fire prevention and safety), $900,000 (tort immunity), $56,347 (special education) and $70,434 (leasing).

The district’s current tax rate of 5.729 is the fourth-highest of 15 school districts in a two-county area, as reported by the Champaign-Ford Regional Office of Education. The Paxton-Buckley-Loda district, which just built a new school, is second on that list with a tax rate of 6.2028.

Darnell reminded board members that the 13 schools in Champaign County all receive revenue from a county-wide facility sales tax. As an example, he said that a district of similar size to the GCMS district received $1.3 million from that facility tax.

“They have a revenue source that we do not,” Darnell noted.

The 2019 levy and tax rate are for property tax bills payable in 2020 that will fund the 2020-21 school year. Final approval of the tentative levy is expected at the board’s regular Nov. 18 meeting.

Intergovernmental agreement

A tentative agreement with the Ford County Sherriff’s Office was presented to board members and will be acted on at the board’s November meeting.

The agreement covers how county law enforcement will utilize a live-feed monitor of the district’s camera system in the county’s dispatch center.

No data will be stored by the dispatch center’s monitoring system. Video footage is stored for a period only by the school district.

Darnell said the monitors will offer “eyes on” in the event of a major school incident, allowing real-time communication during a “worst-case scenario.”

The PBL school district will be participating in a similar way. A joint meeting between Paxton’s and Gibson City’s police chiefs, the sheriff and each school district’s superintendent was held to draft the agreement.

Darnell said the dispatch center’s monitors and related equipment are being paid for by both school districts and cost just under $3,000.

E-learning plan reviewed

The GCMS district is the first in the Champaign-Ford region to plan for e-learning in place of a scheduled attendance day that does not occur, such as during inclement weather.

Darnell said there are many districts to the west and north of Gibson City that are implementing the e-learning concept, which he prefers to call by another of its names: “continuous learning.” However, few districts to the east or south of Gibson City plan to use it this year.

With e-learning, students and school staff at all levels have specific duties to accomplish. Despite the name, however, Darnell said not all learning assignments will rely on computers or internet connectivity. Assignments also would be tweaked in case of a power outage.

Parents first saw the idea as a note on school calendars handed out during registration, where it was used in place of the regular “snow day” notice. Families will also receive a letter outlining the plan.

Naturally, there will be different expectations for kindergarten students versus high school seniors, Darnell said.

Darnell acknowledged the idea “could be challenging for some.” Darnell said the e-learning concept is a trial run for this school year and will be re-evaluated at year’s end.

As required by law, a public hearing will be advertised for the board’s Nov. 18 meeting before the district can formally adopt the plan. In the process, a learning plan document will be submitted to the regional office of education.

Auditor’s report delayed

Darnell said he received communication from the district’s auditors that some additional paperwork will mean a delay in presenting the audit report until the board’s November meeting. Darnell said the delay was not the result of any problems, and he expects a clean audit report.

Board meeting dates set

The tentative calendar of board meeting dates was presented. The board expects to continue to meet on the third Monday of each month, except when the date conflicts with a school holiday.

Personnel action

Board members accepted the resignation of Erica Kostoff, a high school English teacher, at the end of this school year. Kostoff will be moving out of state.

Maternity leave was approved for Ashley Young, commencing with an expected Nov. 20 due date and continuing until Feb. 19, 2020. Young teaches family consumer science at the high school.