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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

U-46 Board approves pacts, discusses process


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 unanimously approved $7.5 million in spending under itemized bills, but a debate on the process of approving those bills was had on Monday, Nov. 2.
  The itemized bills have generally been put on the consent agenda with no presentation to the board beforehand unlike contracts that amount to over $25,000 which require a board vote under its Policy 4.060. For the second time (the first on Oct. 5) board member Phil Costello asked that the item be removed from the consent agenda in order to allow more scrutiny of the district’s spending and improve transparency.
  “I guess the reason I wanted to remove those, that specific item, from this and all future agendas is because it does take up a lot of our resources, and… I’d like to see us at least have a conscious decision about that as opposed to the consent agenda,” Costello said.
  As previously reported by The Examiner, itemized bills offer little detail other than the vendor name, expense amount and what funds the money will come from. The total in itemized bills is usually much larger (in the millions) than the contracts the board is asked to approve.
  Costello had no questions on the details of the $7.5 million approved that evening, but wanted the board to take this item more seriously in the future.
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, said “we can move that to a separate item” in the future and asked if there were any objections. Board member Jeanette Ward asked for a clarification that the item would be moved to the discussion/action portion of the agenda and still would receive a board vote, and since that was the case “then that’s fine with me.”
  However, board members Veronica Noland and Traci Ellis questioned Costello’s reasoning to do this.
  Noland asked: “How is it different then us pulling it whenever we want to discuss something?”
  Costello said that “as a responsible area of the budget” it should receive more discussion in the future.
  Ellis asked: “I guess I would just ask what substantive difference does that make?... I’m just trying to understand what the substantive difference is?”
  Costello replied: “I think even if I don’t have a substantive question, I believe other people should have the right to see that and have a conscious decision on that as opposed to saying $100 million is something we’ll just (put on the) consent agenda and say all in favor yes. I think it’s important to say $5 million here, $10 million there, I think it’s important for us to…”
  Ellis interjected there to say: “I guess I don’t have an objection, but maybe my only objection I’m making is that the implication that it’s not a conscious decision because if it’s something that any board member disagreed with at any time it can always be pulled, discussed and voted yea or nay at any time. So, maybe it’s semantics or maybe I’m objecting to the insinuation that there is not a conscious decision made about the bills that we pay.”
  Costello noted that he has never seen much discussion take place on these bills in the past.
  “There was no insinuation. I just think it’s something that we should discuss,” Costello said. “All the time I’ve sat out in the audience or sat up here, other than my own, we have never said I’d like to look further into item one, two or six. It’s just something I think we should have a discussion about and having it taken off the consent agenda each time I think seems like a waste of time as well.”
  Also receiving a 7-0 vote that evening were two contracts including a one-year pact at a cost of $133,430 (to be paid out of the food and nutrition fund) with Preferred Meal Systems that includes a possible two-year rollover to buy emergency meals. The other contract, to be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers under Title I grants, is with Heartland Business Systems to purchase 210 laptops for two Title I schools at a cost of $49,980.

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