State aid cut called key to school deficit : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|State aid cut called key to school deficit|
|Board president tells local officials reduction cost district $4 million|
|by John Etheredge|
An eleven percent cut in state aid is the primary reason the Oswego School District is facing a $5.5 million budget deficit, Bill Walsh, school district board president, told a gathering of local governmental officials this past week at Oswego Village Hall.
"Part of our budget deficit was driven by the reduction in state aid. It dropped 11 percent-over $4 million to our district this year," he said.
Walsh, however, said the district now has a "great finance team in place that is focusing on how to reduce the budget" and "figure out how to continually improve efficiency and accountability."
Making the school district "a world class school system" remains the primary goal for the board and district administrators, according to Walsh.
"We figure we need to be a world class school system in order to keep our students engaged and keep our students prepared for... the next steps in their live," he said, adding, "It's the education profession that is key to get them on their path."
Walsh said the district's new superintendent, Dr. Matthew Wendt, will lead the effort to make the district world class.
Walsh said he and Wendt shared their vision of a world class school system to the district's 1,100 teachers and other staffers during separate meetings last week.
"We shared that message and it was accepted well," he said.
Responding to Walsh's comment, Oswego Village President Brian LeClercq commended Walsh and the school board for having an attorney present at all of their board meetings.
LeClercq said he understands the school board has been criticized for having an attorney attend their meetings, but added, "Sometimes spending a couple of hundred dollars upfront might save you a couple $100,000 later."
Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis has recommended, and the school board has agreed, to have an attorney present at all of their meetings for a period of one year due to the board's history of repeated violations of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
Walsh noted that the board has had an attorney at its meetings prior to Weis making his recommendation.
"We have about 20,000 people in our system daily, that alone has its challenges," Walsh said, adding, "Legally we need counsel, we need support throughout the year and throughout the day. So, it's a small investment that will pay dividends down the road."
Representatives of other local governmental agencies also presented updates during last week's intergovernmental meeting:
_Rich Zielke, executive director of the Oswegoland Park District, reported that over 37,000 people have visited the Civic Center Aquatic Park this summer and the facility's snack bar has sold more than 12,000 ice cream cones.
Zielke noted that this summer is the last one for the agency's 39 year-old Winrock Park pool in the Boulder Hill Subdivision. After this summer's swimming season, the pool will be closed and rebuilt.
"We are working with architects now who are preparing the conceptual design for the new (Winrock) pool," Zielke said. "We are planning a (public) open house on the plans, probably in October."
Among the park improvement projects completed this summer, Zielke continued, included the full renovation of the playground in Northampton Park in Oswego's Windcrest Subdivision and the construction of a new playground at the Boulder Point community center in Boulder Hill.
Zielke said park district officials appreciate the agency's continued cooperative working relationship with the school district.
He noted the park district offers its before and after school "Kid's Connection" recreation program in 11 of the district's 13 elementary schools and at the East View Kindergarten Center.
Looking ahead, Zielke said the park district is also partnering with the school district on the annual Kid's Triathlon event. Last year over 220 third through sixth graders participated in the triathlon at Oswego East High School.
_Sarah Skilton, executive director of the Oswego Public Library District, reported that over 4,000 area children participated in the library's summer reading program.
In addition, Skilton said over one million books and other items were checked out of the library district's two libraries over the past year.
Skilton added that the library district is also partnering with the Oswego Cultural Arts Commission to host the first-ever Oswego Literary Festival Oct. 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Oswego Village Hall, 100 Parkers Mill.
_Tom Yackley, an Oswego Township trustee, noted the "actual out of pocket dollars" that residents pay to the township "has actually gone down."
"We are trying to do our part. We don't have a multi-multi-trillion dollar budget like (Washington) D.C. has-nor has anyone else-so it is a little more difficult to reduce what we have," Yackley said.
He added that over the last six years "the highs and the lows" in the road maintenance portion of the township's tax bill has changed by $2.
"I think the road district is doing a pretty good job at holding the line on the cost," Yackley said.
Yackley said he has also discussed the problem of speeding motorists on township roads and highways with Kendall County Sheriff Richard Randall.
"I've been down some of these streets and I can't read the license plates on some of these cars because they go by so fast," Yackley said.
Efforts by the Sheriff's Office to curtail the speeding motorists "has been working in a few places," he added.
_LeClercq noted that the village worked successfully with the township to resurface Wolf's Crossing Road between U.S. Route 34 and U.S. Route 30 this summer. Sections of the road are located in the village and the township, respectively.
By working together on the $800,000 project, LeClercq said the two agencies saved money.
LeClercq noted village officials have studied the possible widening of Wolf's Crossing Road to four lanes. However, he said the current estimate to rebuild and widen the road is currently at about $40 million, including property acquisition.
"If someone wants to write a check for that, we'll get on it right away," he said.
LeClercq added he has talked with State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, about the possibility of obtaining state funding to install a bike trail along Wolf's Crossing Road.
_Steve Jones, Oswego's village administrator, said he believes the village board's most important accomplishment this year has been the adoption of a new, five-year strategic plan.
The plan, he noted, has six major areas of focus and 73 objectives.
Since he began work with the village in June, Jones said he can't take any credit for the work that went into the plan, but is prepared to work on achieving the plan's many objectives.
Jones said he could talk for two hours about the plan, but instead promised to forward a link to the plan on the village's website to all of the officials present at the meeting.
"I would like you to read it," he said.
Jones also asked the other officials to send him plans that they have for their agencies.
"Obviously, if we have some overlap with the various (other) taxing bodies we can collaborate. We can spend some time together and try to solve some of the problems of the community," he said.
Oswego, park, school
staffers to discuss trails
LeClercq also discussed the possibility of the village working with the school and park district to install additional bike trails in the community.
He suggested the village could "work on land acquisition" for additional trails, while the "school district could work on actually getting the trails physically put in" and "perhaps the park district could pick up (the cost) for the maintenance."
He added, "I'm throwing this out there for people to have some dialog."
LeClercq suggested local agencies may be able to obtain grants to help pay for the trails. He noted that it is usually easier to obtain grant money if more than one local governmental agency requests the funding.
LeClercq also proposed the staffs from the village and school and park districts could meet to discuss the trail issue in more detail.
Walsh said he agreed with LeClercq's idea to create safe paths to local schools.
He also noted the school district entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Aurora to develop safe walking routes to schools in the Aurora portion of the school district.
LeClercq asked Walsh to consider using a portion of transportation funds the board may cut to fund trail construction.
Bob Mattingly, president of the Oswegoland Park District Board president, said he and other park district officials are wiling to work on the path issue with the village and school district.
"I think the biggest problem would be identifying the areas where you need the trails and then paying for it, obviously," Mattingly said.
Concerning construction of trails, Gail Johnson, a village board member, said, "One of the conversations we've been having with our village board is who does what and where do the responsibilities (for new trails) lie?"
Johnson added, "Every time a trail comes up we seem to be having the same conservation about maintenance and building, etc."
Johnson said "it would be awesome" for village staff and staff from the school and park districts to discuss the trail issue in more detail and then bring some proposals back to their respective board.
Walsh said, "That's a key point. There are trails in subdivisions that are the homeowners association's responsibility. A lot of parents are looking to the (school) district or to the park district. As we come through with this plan, that's the key that needs to be out there and people can understand. That you for pointing that out."
_Agencies who were invited by the village but did not send representatives to the meeting were Kendall County, Bristol Township and the Oswego Fire Protection District.
Bristol Township has never sent a representative to the intergovernmental meetings hosted by the village.