Jacksonville School District 117 had an eye to the future for last night’s September board meeting. The district saw a stable financial report over the first two months of the school year, but Superintendent Steve Ptacek says that the financial picture in 5-6 years could significantly change due to current laws concerning minimum wages. “With the increase to the $15 minimum wage and the $40,000 teacher minimum teacher salary coming and with the fact there is a consolidation commission that [the State of Illinois] is forming, TRS costs going up, the state is going to have to shift more money into the TRS System, the EBF – the new funding system that they were raving about – is showing signs of being taxed; that I think there is a possibility – I don’t want to make a prediction – that some things could happen to force districts financially or through state action to have to consider merging together.”
Overall, the district has seen a drop in enrollment by 120 students despite seeing some of the largest kindergarten classes in recent memory. Jacksonville Middle School, Jacksonville High School, and Washington Elementary saw the sharpest decline of students. Ptacek attributes some of it to the realignment of boundaries from two years ago and to Central Illinois overall change. “We are seeing a shift in the placement of the population. Some people who are going to see that the enrollment is down are going to look at our kindergarten numbers and wonder how that is possible. Our kindergarten classes in some places are packed. Other places are lower. Last year, the first year of the new boundaries, everything was much more balanced so it’s a little challenging to see how the demographics are going to move around. Other than that, I think all of your rural communities throughout the state have been decreasing. We’ve seen over the last decade years of up and years of down. It always seems to hover around that 3,300 to 3,400 number. I wouldn’t take one year of us dropping to be a major indicator, but we’ll keep track of that as we go through the next few years.”
To offset some of the upcoming expenses and the dip in enrollment, Ptacek says that the Central Office is being looked at for efficiency and consolidation of duties, and possible elimination of some administrative positions in the near future either through attrition or consolidation. Ptacek foresees a possible increase up to $1 million dollars by 2025 when the minimum wage law of $15 an hour reaches the state as well as the $40,000 per year minimum teacher salary wage.
Despite the concerns, the board approved administrative contracts and pay raises at all of the district buildings. Most of the pay increases were 3% or less. The district also approved new stipend schedules for extracurricular activities. Ptacek and representatives of the Jacksonville Education Association had been cleaning up some of the schedules to eliminate some of the duplicated portions of the schedule and removed or amended them. District Treasuer Jamie Hadjan also notified the board that the 2 new school bus purchases arrived in the district on Friday last week. She said the payments for those two expenses will be shown on next month’s budget. Despite the upcoming expenses, Hadjan echoed Ptacek’s sentiments that the district’s budget is right on pace compared to previous years and that the future is looking stable for finances.