By Pat Pratt
The Triad Board of Education met Nov. 21, approving moving the process forward for a tax levy increase and setting a public meeting for Dec. 19.
Board meeting documents show total property tax extended or abated for 2021 were $30,374,724. Estimated property tax to be levied for 2022 are $32,040,984. As this represents a 5.49% increase, the district is required to hold a Truth in Taxation meeting. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Board of Education Building, 203 East Throp Street.
The district says while the levy shows an increase, the district anticipates individual tax rates per assessed property valuation will decrease. However, any decrease would not be confirmed until around May, when the Madison County Clerk extends the tax rates.
“While the amount levied for the school district increases each year, property owners can expect to see a decrease in the tax rate for the school district again in tax year 2022,” Triad Superintendent Dr. Jason Henderson said. “This would mark the seventh year in a row that the tax rate has decreased for the district.”
“The Board and administration will continue to take a very conservative approach to spending and levying,” he added.
While the resolution approved at the meeting estimates the levy and sets a date for a public hearing, the levy increase will not be voted on by the board until after the hearing, at the Dec. 19 meeting.
Other action items approved at the meeting included health, life and safety amendments related to projects at the high and middle schools.
At the high school, the toilet partitions and wash stations in the restrooms near the main gymnasium are damaged and failing, according to board documents. The district plans to remove and replace those with new facilities, which will conform to current accessibility standards.
Board documents show the estimated restroom replacement cost is $135,200, which reflects a 20% overage contingency. Work is expected to be completed in December of 2024.
In a separate action item, board members also approved applying for a matching-funds school maintenance grant, which would cover $50,000 of the project.
Also under the health, life and safety amendments are plans to replace the wheelchair lift at the middle school.
The current lift is not working, according to board documents. Replacement cost is estimated at $23,480, with that amount also reflecting a 20% contingency. Work is expected to be completed in August of 2023.
In other news from the meeting, Transportation Director Kevin McGraw provided an update to board members, saying difficulties still persist in staffing bus drivers.
Driver staffing has been an issue nationwide, according to a 2022 report by school ride-service company HopSkipDrive, which cited low pay, Covid-19 pandemic concerns and more attractive job opportunities.
“Transportation is still a struggle – trying to get drivers in the door, trying to get drivers to come to work,” McGraw said. “We are better off than some districts in the area. We do have all of our routes full with drivers.”
McGraw said administrators are stressing with drivers the importance of regular attendance and consistency. Two routes were also recently eliminated and combined with other routers, freeing up those drivers. The transportation department is also using a recruiting team to help find employees.
“We do have a recruiting team – we have four drivers who have stepped up and offered to help with recruiting,” McGraw said. “So we are going to put them on rotation, get them out there in front of the public and try to get some banners on the buses.”
The district is set to receive three Bluebird electric buses in March. A grant provided for about 66% of the costs and combined with anticipated fuel savings, the district says the vehicles will be cheaper than gas or diesel-powered vehicles.
One charging station is also already in place and construction is planned for a fast-charging station at the bus lot to be completed in 2023.
While the item was only discussed and no action was taken, Triad Middle School is considering changing sports associations.
Triad Middle School Principal Dr. Matthew Noyes told board members that schools in the Metro East Athletic Conference are deciding to leave the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association to join the Illinois Elementary School Association.
Noyes asked the board to consider a motion at the December meeting to make the change. He cited as positives the IESA being the sister organization of the IHSA, more postseason opportunities, higher quality postseason opportunities and better organization than the SIJHSAA.
Board members questioned, however, if travel distance in the IESA could be an issue. Noyes agreed it was a fair point, saying some events could be as far as Peoria, but most would be similar to current travel miles. On rare occasions, there may be an overnight stay arranged.
“We are going to have a decent amount of travel, but you are exactly right,” Noyes said. ”The assumption would be, unfortunately, we probably won’t be making as many trips to the state tournament in this association as we have been.”