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  • Fairbury News staff

PC approves FY22 budget

The Prairie Central Board of Education approved the Fiscal Year 2022 budget during its regular September meeting held in Chatsworth Thursday evening.

Budgeted revenues total $27,487,737 with expenses at $27,394,612. The fund balance on July 1 was $18,327,498 with an expected fund balance of $18,420,623 on June 30, 2022. The district may need to amend the budget before the end of the year once a new contract agreement has been reached, as salaries account for more than 70 percent of the budget.

“We have included money to continue to replace old buses and buses that are out of warranty, which have proven to be expensive to maintain,” said PC Superintendent Paula Crane.

The County School Facilities Tax money will go toward several projects such as roof replacement for the high school gym in Fairbury, new football and track lighting, a plumbing project at Prairie Central Elementary in Fairbury and possibly new windows in the high school gym.

An Upper Elementary school roof replacement project in Forrest will also be paid off within this fiscal year but Crane said there is nothing “out of the ordinary” in the district’s budget.

During the Chatsworth meeting, Prairie Central Primary East school principal Mike Wolf gave a building update. He noted the kids are happy and learning every day while the staff members are doing a great job.

“It’s been an awesome start to the year,” said Wolf.

Wolf reported the school’s PTO remains active and they are trying to improve the playground which was damaged by summer storms in Chatsworth.

Several members of the public attended the school board meeting with some presenting public comments. Local attorney Will Gerber pointed to a lack of guidance from the state and Illinois State Board of Education, which he said is enforcing “unenforceable” policy when it comes to masks and mandatory testing. Gerber feels ISBE and the governor are unlawfully quarantining children.

“When things don’t work, maybe it’s time to re-focus your attention,” Gerber suggested.

Gerber recommended staff stop quarantining children unless there is an order from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“You have your own lawyer; you can direct your questions to him.”

Parent Ben Stoller said his son, who loves to come to school, was quarantined and sent home.

“He was sent home perfectly healthy,” Stoller told the board.

He feels student learning is being jeopardized due to the quarantines happening. Stoller also expressed concerns over Senate Bill 818 and other issues at the state level, saying there will be a point when Gov. Pritzker pushes too much.

After the comments, board president Mark Slagel encouraged individuals to back off from the district staff as they have lost some exceptional employees due to all of the complaints they are getting. He told the audience there is another side to the issue as well.

Board member Tim McGreal said he asked Gerber to send information which can be forwarded on to the district’s lawyer.

Superintendent Crane gave a transportation update, noting bus drivers have thankless jobs. They are being flexible, taking on other routes and driving more kids home. The district is still looking for substitute drivers.

“We go day by day,” Crane admitted.

Following a trending enrollment decline for years at Prairie Central, enrollment is actually up about 20 students which Crane is happy with. She also sought and received approval from the board to submit a grant to the state for the PCHS gym roof.

It was revealed during the superintendent’s report that new agriculture teacher Kade Hill was recognized as one of the best new agriculture teachers in the state and awarded a grant in front of FFA members recently. Also, the district café supplier is having difficulty finding workers so some food deliveries have been missed. This is a problem throughout the area and advanced ordering is underway to keep freezers stocked.

Crane reported the Upper Elementary roofing project is moving along and the contractor will give an estimate on the cost of covering all of the metal since the old metal is faded and the old and new metal on the top and side of the building do not match.

Following an executive session, the board approved a memorandums-of-understanding with PCEA regarding remote learning job expectations and remote learning guidance for quarantined students.

The board took the following personnel action during executive session:

-Accepted the resignations of Paul Garcia, PCHS assistant wrestling coach; Janae Steidinger, PCHS secretary and Joy (Rathbun) Casson, with the intent to retire at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

-Appointed Paul Garcia PCHS auxiliary wrestling coach; Ashleigh Miller as head cook at PCE; Jim Meister as PCHS assistant softball coach and Ashley Enderli as PCJH cheer coach.

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