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District 150 board 'frustrated' by proposed annual $300k CSO fee

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

Peoria Public Schools’ leadership is “frustrated” by the prospect of paying for the City’s combined sewer overflow problems.

That was the sentiment expressed by several board members Monday in response to a CSO presentation by the City Engineer.

Under the proposed plan, the school district would have to pay an estimated $25,000 a month. 

Board Vice President Rick Cloyd implored the city to consider support in the form of TIF funds, credits or a tax pass-through.

“I hope you understand that we’re willing to cooperate, and I’m sure the administration is too, but we just can’t absorb cost increases like this," Cloyd said. "How many teachers are we going to lay off and how many programs are we going to stop doing because we have to do this?”

The proposed annual $300,000 utility fee is calculated according to square-footage of impermeable area, like pavement.

City Engineer Scott Reeise says the city is looking into opportunities for credits and incentives. Reeise says a school district in Philadelphia offset the costs of that city’s CSO by engaging kids in the program through education and rain barrel art projects.

During the meeting, the board unanimously approved a five-year strategic plan that tackles curriculum, finances and behavioral issues.

Interim Superintendent Sharon Kherat developed the plan, which involved gathering input from teachers, families and city leadership. Kherat says she intends to get to work right away on implementing the social-emotional component that addresses student behavior.

“When I first came I kept hearing a lot about expulsions, suspensions and discipline," Kherat said. "A lot of the acting out has to do with the trauma, and the experiences and unmet needs, so that will go a long, long way.”

That aspect of the plan would create an Office of Social Emotional Learning that involves hiring social workers, counselors and psychologists to facilitate support for students, families and staff.

Kherat says it would cost between $600,000 and $1 million, depending on grants and other possible funding sources.

The strategic plan also calls for a more rigorous fine arts program, the creation of a STEM-focused middle-school and the restructuring of grade levels.

The board also approved a $199,590.78 purchase of math textbooks for the next school year.