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District 87 Counting on COVID Relief Grants To Cut Deficit

From left, District 87 board members Elizabeth Fox Anvick and Brigette Gibson and District 87  Superintendent Barry Reilly prepare for the school board meeting Wednesday, April 28, 2021.
From left, District 87 board members Elizabeth Fox Anvick and Brigette Gibson and District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly prepare for the school board meeting Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

District 87's finance chief told the school board Wednesday that although the district projects a nearly $3 million structural deficit in its current budget, he hopes COVID relief reimbursement will arrive in time to cut that to less than $1 million.

It was unclear at the school year's start what kind of negative impact the pandemic crisis would have on district finances. In recent years, District 87 has had surpluses, said Colin Manahan.

The district has applied for about $2 million in federal COVID relief reimbursements -- $1.3 million to cover food service staff and about $700,000 to cover personal protective equipment.  If those grants arrive before July, that will mean the district's budget would see the lower $1 million deficit.

While that’s still a large figure, it’s much better than district leaders had braced for, said Manahan.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board OK’d a minor funding adjustment to this year’s budget. Manahan said the  roughly $75 million budget won’t change overall. The move adds $100,000 to a pension fund, by taking that amount from a fire prevention fund.

The board adopted the FY21 budget on Sept. 23. The board’s expected to adopt the amended version, following a June 9 hearing.

Manahan said adjustments are necessary each year, given the nine-month spread between the budget’s adoption and final tallies. But he said this year has been complicated by the pandemic. 

“In the difficult times that we're in, I think that’s pretty good that we don’t have to make any major changes,” he told the board.

The finance chief also told the board he expects student fees to remain flat for the next year. One unknown though, is meal fees. The district won’t be able to determine that until the federal government releases its calculations, he said. Manahan said he’d be surprised if they go up, though, given the continued economic hardships surrounding the pandemic.

Graduation plan finalized

Plans are set for Bloomington High School to have an outdoor graduation ceremony, District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly told the board. 

If bad weather interferes, the school will host a drive-thru ceremony like it did last year, he added. Either way, the celebration will be 3 p.m. May 30. Grossinger Motors Arena isn’t available because it's being used for the McLean County Health Department's COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

Fitzgerald, others seated

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board seated new member Samedy Fitzgerald and those reelected to second terms in the April 6 election: Elizabeth Fox Anvick, Brigette Gibson and Chuck Irwin. All four terms run through 2025. Fitzgerald replaces Kiasha Henry, who was appointed in 2019, but didn’t seek election this spring.

The seven-member board also includes James Almeda, Tammy Houtzel, and Mark Wylie.

Members elected Wylie board president, and Fox Anvick vice president. They appointed Wilma Gleason board secretary, and Manahan, board treasurer. Those posts generally are for one  year. However, with Manahan retiring in June, the board on Wednesday also voted his successor would be board treasurer beginning in July.

New finance and facilities chief Michael Cornale begins his three-year contract July 1, with an annual salary of $120,000. He comes to Bloomington via Grundy County’s Gardner school district. Reilly said Cornale studied facilities management, so he’ll be a good fit for the dual responsibilities of managing the district’s finances and buildings. He heads both finance and facilities in the Gardner district, as well.

Manahan has worked nearly 25 years in District 87. His departure will be followed a year later by Reilly’s 2022 retirement.

COVID vaccine clinic

After the meeting, Reilly said about 75 students, parents, faculty and staff have signed up for a COVID-vaccine clinic Thursday at Bloomington High School. Students 16 and older are eligible for the vaccine. But those under 18 do need parent’s permission, he said.

Wednesday’s board meeting was at the district’s Educational Services Center, 300 E. Monroe Street, Bloomington. The board’s next meeting is May 12.

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