Neoga Board Looks at Facility Usage, Referendum Possibilities and Co-operation or Consolidation

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Published on June 12 2014 9:21 pm
Last Updated on June 12 2014 9:21 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

A wide-ranging meeting of the Neoga Board of Education Thursday night featured discussion of how best to utilize district facilities, whether a referendum should be placed on the November ballot to raise revenues, and consideration of cooperating or consolidating with another district.

It all comes back to money, or the lack of it, as projections show the district operating at a deficit within two years if nothing changes.

Committees have been established to review each of the items.  Board member Julie Butler is chairing the facility usage committee.  Butler said the committee is exploring three scenarios. One is closing Neoga Elementary School and using the current high school building for Grades Pre-K to 8 and the middle school building for Grades 9 to 12. Another is closing the elementary building and using the middle school for Pre-K thru 5 and the high school for Grades 6 to 12. The third option being considered is closing the middle school and using the elementary building for Pre-K to 5 and the high school for Grades 6 to 12.

Feeling the committee members need a little more expertise, Butler proposed and the Board approved hiring BLDD Architects for an amount not to exceed $4,000 to analyze enrollment and future trends and make recommendations as to where classes should be housed.

The Board earlier had decided to relocate the Unit offices, but last night agreed to have BLDD study whether that's a good decision, after all, as part of their studies.

Butler said the findings of the architect firm would give the Board hard data to use in making its decisions.

As to the referendum committee, Chuck Campbell said they have until August 18 to get a question ready for the November election ballot. Campbell, a relatively new board member, said they need information as to what bonding authority the district has since there some other bonds yet to be retired. He also wants to be able to show the income and outgo of the district so the Board can know whether a referendum would only generate enough added revenue for a short-term fix or whether it could put the district on a good long-term financial footing.

When it was the cooperative or consolidation committee's turn, board member Chris Strohl said she and fellow board member Bill Steichman attended a meeting of the Stewardson-Strasburg school board to try gauge their interest in further cooperation beyond the teachers they now share. Strohl said the Stew-Stras officials were receptive, and that both academic and athletic cooperation was discussed. One outgrowth is that Neoga and Stew-Stras might co-op in cross country during the coming year. Stew-Stras and Windsor are co-oping in many other sports and will co-op in all sports after the coming year, but Windsor does not offer cross country, so that's where the agreement with Neoga would come in.

There was discussion Thursday as to whether the committee should approach other districts to gauge their interest. High school principal Ben Johnson, who is an officer with the National Trail Conference and deals with athletics on a regular basis, cautioned that the best option, regardless of what district is contacted, is to only work with one district, to build a level of trust between the districts, and see where that might lead.

The consensus last night was that no one is excited about pursuing consolidation with another district at this point, but the members are realistic that circumstances might eventually make that the best option.

In other business Thursday, the Neoga board discussed establishing a Bass Fishing team with volunteers as coaches. The Board heard that the cost would be minimal, but some members are uncertain about using volunteers, especially since similar initiatives involving volunteers in other sports have been rejected. The request will be discussed further at the July meeting.