By: Melanie Williamson
On Tuesday, May 23, the Vermilion school board met to review the five-year financial forecast for the district. However, with so many unknowns regarding the proposed stated education budget and the currently offered severance package, it was difficult to get a clear picture. As of the meeting, the district is reportedly doing well. The administration has worked hard to cut expenses as much as possible while simultaneously increasing revenue through programs such as open enrollment.
Currently, the district is receiving more students through open enrollment than they are losing to other districts. The district is attracting many students that were previously enrolled in online programs such as ECOT. Through the hiring of a behavioral specialist, they have brought back many of the students they previously did not have the resources to help. Superintendent Phil Pempin stated that during the previous week alone, they had nine families come in to register their children at Sailorway Middle School for next school year.
Superintendent Pempin also stated that they are conducting pre-screening this year for kindergarten, which was not done in the past. The pre-screening will allow the school to have a better idea of how many students they can expect in the 2017-2018 kindergarten class. As of the meeting, they had 90 students come in for pre-screening, which they believe to be positive with hopes of surpassing last year’s kindergarten class of 121 students.
Board member Chris Habermehl asked if they have room within the elementary school for an additional kindergarten class if needed, and Pempin responded that there is plenty of room to grow in VES, which also now houses the district’s preschool.
One of the many ways the district is cutting costs is by offering a severance package to eligible employees. With employee pay and benefits being the largest expense, the severance package has the potential of having a significant positive impact on the budget as those positions are either not replaced or replaced with someone newer at a lower paygrade. As of the meeting, the deadline for applying for the severance package was not up, so the total impact is still unknown.
In addition to the impact of the severance package being unknown, the amount of state funding the district receives is also a potential unknown as the school waits for the education budget to be voted through the state Senate. Under the currently proposed budget, the Vermilion school district stands to lose over $600,000 in state funding.
When the question of a levy came up, superintendent Pempin stated that he felt it was too early to make such a recommendation because they are still actively cutting costs and increasing enrollment. Pempin reiterated that the district is doing everything it can to put off needing a levy as long as possible.
Board member Habermehl stated that it has been nearly 20 years since the district has received a new levy. He stated that he feels the district has done a lot of positive things over the last 20 years including building new facilities and upgrading current facilities without burdening tax payers or cutting educational services. Habermehl went on to say that levies are incredibly difficult, and he encouraged the administration to keep working on making adjustments to the revenue and expenses.