Nokomis Hosts Taxation Hearing

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Prior to the regular Dec. 15 meeting, the Nokomis School Board held the Truth in Taxation Hearing which was called to order at 7:25 p.m.  by President Chad Ruppert.

Superintendent Scott Doerr, board members Joe Gasparich, Steve Janssen, Denny Bauman, Carl Ray Fesser, Jim Eisenbarth, and Ben Tarter were all present for the hearing.  After a brief presentation of tax data, Doerr summarized that “we should see a decrease in our overall tax rate of about four cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.”  After no public comment on the levy was made at Ruppert’s invitation, the board voted to close the meeting on a voice vote. 

The regular meeting was then called to order by Ruppert at 7:31 p.m.  Dr. Doerr and the board members were joined by Principals Reedy, McDowell, Assistant Principal McDonald, and auditor Kent Kull of the firm Mose, Yockey, Brown and Kull.  Various other guests attended remotely.

Kull presented the board with the FY20 audit and annual financial report.  He summarized by telling the board the district received an overall score of 3.9 out of a possible 4.0, which means the audit and district finances are considered “recognized,” the highest level provided by Illinois State Board of Education.  The board thanked Kull and his firm for their work.

In his report to the board, Dr. Doerr said that the state currently owes the district $123,206, but anticipated an increase in that number as the second quarter mandated categorical payments are due Dec. 31, with most of the money owed being for Early Childhood programs.

Doerr told the board there would need to be a change made in the school calendar for January by moving the Jan. 29 school improvement day.  Given the shortage of substitute teachers in the area to cover for teachers, they thought the half-day Jan. 15 training day would be easier to get substitutes for, and the Jan. 29 school improvement day will be rescheduled. He said parents would be notified soon.

Doerr said the NPT board would be meeting the next day.  He said the Taylorville district had not yet provided NPT with a copy of the resolution they adopted in early November, so he hoped to have updates on that after tomorrow’s meeting, at which time he would update the members.

He then read a letter from a parent to the board regarding the recent experience with a child and commending the district on the satisfaction of the implementation of remote learning procedures.  The parent thought the child was kept very engaged with learning and other students, citing examples of each, and expressing the feeling the child’s education was not hindered during the quarantine period.  During the principals’ reports, Reedy shared with the board  similar communication experiences between parents and himself.  McDowell concurred saying she also had received several “thank you” messages.  She said finals were being planned to be as accommodating as possible.  She also told the board the band and chorus had put together a program she planned to install on the district’s social media platforms.

Dr. Doerr also wished to update the board and clarify the district’s COVID-19 data thus far in the first semester.  He reported there had been a total of ten positive student cases: five at North School, one at junior high, and four at the high school.  There had been eight positive teacher cases: five at North School, one at junior high, and two at high school.  There had also been two positive cases in the staff, both at North School.

Of the four cases at the high school, only two other students were required to be quarantined due to the fact the school was able to keep the students adequately social distanced.  He added that currently the high school has 85 students on remote learning, 50 of which are by choice.  The junior high has 25 students on remote learning, 16 by choice.  In commending the students, faculty and staff, Doerr noted that Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) rules state that a break-out is when there are five positive cases in the same room within a 14-day span.  He said this has not happened in Nokomis this semester.

Doerr felt the data reflected excellent work by the district in being flexible and working as a team and he thought more students might come back to in-person learning with the resumption of classes on Jan. 5, barring a Christmas jump in the numbers.  At this time they would plan to continue with 2:30 dismissal so that teachers can continue to work with remote learners.  He thought trends might be more evident by the time the board convened in January to consider planning on how to move forward. 

Earlier during the consent agenda portion of the meeting, Doerr answered questions from the board regarding a couple of expenses noted by the members.  He answered Ruppert’s question regarding a safe deposit box charge by explaining it was primarily used to keep the district’s CDs, bonds, and a deed.  Gasparich asked about a line item for Far River Creek, which Doerr explained was a hands-on lab program.  Gasparich also asked about TheraKids PC SPGD Service Therapy.  Doerr said it was a contractual service to NPT that provided physical and occupational therapy.

McDonald reported the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is awaiting guidance from IDPH and the governor prior to moving forward with winter sports.  He said at this time the IHSA was still committed to having all three seasons of sports and hoped to meet again with IDPH and the governor soon.  He also said he has worked with other athletic directors to put together several different schedules to play sports.  McDonald also reported Nokomis had been accepted into the Junior Midstate conference.

With no definite news to report with respect to winter sports, or sports in general, the board decided to leave tabled the resolution on winter sports.  Gasparich made a motion to approve the intergovernmental agreement with Panhandle School District for boys and girls soccer cooperative for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years as amended.  Eisenbarth seconded and the motion passed unanimously on a voice vote.

Eisenbarth made a motion to approve the 2020 tax levy for FY22.  The motion, briefly discussed in the earlier special hearing, was seconded by Fesser and approved unanimously by the board on a roll call vote.

Fesser made a motion to approve a resolution transferring funds from the School Facility Occupation Tax Fund to the Bond and Interest Fund, abating a portion of the taxes to pay debt service on the general obligation school bonds.  The motion was seconded by Eisenbarth and approved unanimously on a roll call vote.

Janssen made a motion to approve the FY20 annual financial report as presented by Mose, Yockey, Brown and Kull.  Seconded by Tarter, the motion passed unanimously.

Fesser made a motion to approve curriculum changes for Nokomis High School for the 2021-2022 school year.  Eisenbarth seconded the motion.  During discussion, Doerr explained that the technology department had presented two new class proposals.  One class is in physical computing, dealing with the internet, sensors and other devices, and circuit boards.  The second class is video game design which teaches students how to code and create games or gaming systems.  He thought it was an awesome opportunity for the students to learn.  Also, the ag department was updating their courses to reflect changes in the career technical education guidelines developed by the state, FFA, and agriculture department.  The motion passed unanimously on a voice vote.

Janssen moved to enter into closed session at 8:36 p.m., which was seconded by Tarter and approved by the board.

The board reentered regular session at 9:02 p.m. and Gasparich made a motion to approve the employment of Abigail Hocq as a special education aide effective Jan. 4, 2021.  Fesser seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously on a roll call vote.

The board adjourned on a motion by Janssen.

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