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U-46 Board to vote on tax abatement, expenses

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 will be voting on $2.1 million in expenditure proposals as well as a property tax abatement resolution at its upcoming meeting on Monday, Feb. 5. The items were presented on Jan. 22.
  The abatement is $3.9 million going towards paying part of the debt services of an $18.3 million bond. Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations, said the resolution is designed to have the abatement go towards 2015 and 2016 property tax levies, not an abatement of the 2017 tax levy.
  “The budget that was presented and approved last fall included the levy for 2017 due to the uncertainty of state funding,” King said. “To date, that uncertainty is still an issue since we are halfway through our fiscal year and the state still has not begun the distribution of funds based on the evidence-based funding formula.”
  King added: “Our expectation at this point is that we may not see any of those funds till May, which really doesn’t give us any opportunity to do anything with those funds in this fiscal year.”
  One of four expenditure items to be voted on includes a contract with Grant Thornton, LLP at a cost of $945,840, to come from the education fund if approved, for health care consultancy services.
  Grant Thornton came in with the highest bid while Arthur J. Gallagher was the lowest, at $825,000, and board member Jeanette Ward asked why the highest bidder was being proposed.
  “There are several considerations,” said Beth Berg, coordinator of employee benefits. “The healthcare committee did interview finalists and the consultant that is being recommended, Grant Thornton, is the incumbent. They have been working with the district for I believe 14 years now.”
  Berg added that the healthcare committee felt Grant Thornton was more “independent” and “not a broker.”
  Board member Sue Kerr asked who was on the healthcare committee and Berg said the administration is represented as well as “representatives from all of the district’s collective bargaining unions.”
  One area where Grant Thornton was scored lower than Arthur J. Gallagher by the healthcare committee was providing assistance on claims disputes, and board member Melissa Owens asked if that’s been addressed. Berg said Arthur J. Gallagher scored higher because it’s setup a separate unit for claims disputes, and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the committee was “not scoring on past practice from Grant Thornton.”
  Another proposal is with Dell Marketing, LP ($677,980) for 2,000 chromebooks and with PCM ($76,063) for 125 charging carts primarily for self-contained special education classrooms. If approved, the costs will be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers through IDEA Part B Flow-Through grant funds.
  Kerr asked if teachers will be given training on the technology to which Leatrice Satterwhite, director of specialized student services, said “we’ll work collaboratively with information services” to provide training.
  Another proposal with Dell Marketing, LP would cost $152,146.40 to purchase 70 laptops for the BEACON Academy. The nation’s taxpayers would also pay for this proposal through Perkin’s grant funds.
  A proposal with the College Board costing $224,894, from the education fund, would go towards paying for the first exam for Advanced Placement (AP) students.
  The administration said 1,931 students took a free exam last year while AP enrollment has dropped by nine students this year. Last year the district spent $196,000 on AP exams and estimates it will likely spend the same this year. The exam costs $94 per test, $53 for free and reduced lunch students.




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