PLT #3 Invites Public Input10:08 AM May 30, 2019
Submitted by James Melton
Dear Members of the PLT #3 Community,
I am writing to invite all of the members of our community to a town hall meeting that the PLT #3 Board of Education is hosting on June 6 at 6:00 p.m. in the Middle School Commons. The purpose of this meeting is threefold:
- Provide information about the state of the school district
- Explain some options the Board of Education has been discussing to improve the district’s finances
- Discuss the future of our district with the community
We are holding this meeting because PLT #3 is approaching a financial crossroads. For many years, the district’s student enrollment has been declining, which affects how much money we receive from the State of Illinois. At the same time, the State of Illinois has put in place legislation to raise the minimum wage for non-teaching staff to $15/hour by 2025. In addition, they are poised to pass legislation that will raise the minimum salary for teachers to $40,000/year by the 2023-2024 school year. Unfortunately, we have only limited capacity to raise more revenue to pay for the large increases in expenditures that we anticipate will result from these two pieces of legislation. As a result, the PLT #3 Board of Education has started to consider some options that will help secure the future financial health of our beloved schools.
There are three options that we have been exploring. The first is to transition our district into attendance centers. These attendance centers would change the configuration of our elementary schools by placing all sections of each grade level in a single building. Aside from all of the educational benefits of attendance centers, they have the added advantage of saving the district money by giving us more flexibility in the number of sections offered at certain grade levels as class sizes fluctuate from one year to the next. Attendance centers have been discussed and recommended as beneficial to our students’ education since at least 2002. Our most recent investigation into attendance centers started last September with a committee of teaching staff, administration, and two board members. Since then, attendance centers have been brought up at numerous board meetings and been discussed in depth at three meetings (December, January, and May).
The second option, that we only recently began to explore, is the closure of an elementary school. This option would involve moving the fifth grade to the middle school. The remaining elementary students would be housed at either Prophetstown Elementary School or Tampico Elementary School. As of the writing of this letter, there has been no discussion as to which elementary school would remain open if this option were chosen. Closing an elementary school was first brought up at our April meeting and was discussed in more depth at our May meeting.
The third option would be to hold a referendum to raise the property tax rate for our education fund, which is the fund that we use to pay most of our staff members. The property tax rate for this fund is capped, meaning that we cannot raise additional revenue for this fund through property taxes without a referendum. If we were to hold a referendum and it were to pass, most (if not all) of the money raised would go towards staff salaries.
We feel these three options address the future financial concerns mentioned above, while not negotiating on the quality of education for our community’s children. In fact, the Board of Education believes that both proposals concerning student location actually represent an opportunity to provide educational benefits to our students while, at the same time, saving the district money.
In closing, I would like to encourage everyone in our community to attend the meeting on June 6. Come and learn about all of the wonderful things that have happened in our district over the last year. Come and hear about some of the challenges our district faces in the coming years. Come and have your say about the future direction of our district and which of these options we choose. Come and give us your ideas for how to deal with the financial crossroads that we are approaching. Or just come to show your support for our schools. I hope to see many of you at our town hall meeting on June 6.
President, PLT #3 Board of Education