Meeting attendees contest SGCS stipends

CHURUBUSCO — “I’m upset to hear about the money that’s being proposed. I understand it was already in the works before, but under the circumstances, I don’t feel it’s right. You’re going to cause a big riff in the community,” said Bob Pankop, who spoke at last week’s Smith-Green Community School Board meeting.

The meeting was the first since the district’s referendum was approved in the primary election, and up for discussion was the approval of stipends for Superintendent Daniel Hile and Business Manager Jodi Royer.

The stipends are for two duties, grant writing and transportation, which are not directly tied to Hile’s and Royer’s positions. Those tasks were previously carried out by the assistant superintendent’s position, which was eliminated several years ago to cut costs. The duties have been passed between other administrators and employees at the district.

“This is money we’ve agreed upon for the past year,” said board member Cathy Petrie.

“It’s appropriate to pay out what was agreed to in the past,” said board President Dean Geiger.

Other community members questioned if the stipends will continue to be paid out in the future.

“It’s open for discussion,” Geiger said. “But this year I don’t think it would be fair to not pay out what was agreed upon.”

The board unanimously approved the payout, which was $5,000 for Hile for grant writing and $3,000 for Royer for transportation.

The stipends could move from one person to the next, depending on who takes on the responsibilities. Board members explained that the money was taken from part of the assistant superintendent’s salary and paid to whomever was carrying out the work.

The transportation stipend is taken from the district’s transportation fund, and the grant writing stipend comes from the general fund.

Money generated from the recently approved referendum will go into the district’s general fund.

“We are starting to take a look at what will be cuts going forward into next school year,” Petrie said. “I don’t know if this is on the table, but we will be looking at what we will do going forward.”

One community member brought up the point that extra spending comes out of the pockets of the taxpayers.

“It hurts us every time we have to cough up a dollar,” Petrie said.

“Part of having a board that’s part of the community is, we’re impacting ourselves just like everyone in the community,” Geiger said. “We appreciate you coming and giving input, and being part of the process. I appreciate it, even though my opinion tonight is different, it is good to have your input and to know where the community stands.”

Also at the board meeting:

• The school board voted to increase breakfast and ala carte costs by 10 cents. For elementary school students, breakfast will increase from $1.40 to $1.50 and from $1.50 to $1.60 at the Jr./Sr. High School. Prices will remain the same for lunches — $2.15 at the elementary, $2.35 at the Jr./Sr. High School and $3.50 for adults. In the past, the district was forced by the federal government to raise meal prices. Royer indicated the federal/state government was behind and did not provide prices soon enough this year, so the mandatory increase wasn’t enacted.

“We could see it back as mandatory next year,” she said.

• The board agreed to send the HVAC project out for bid. The board hopes to have a competitive response of at least four to five bids. If the bid can be awarded at the June 18 meeting, project work can begin this summer and is expected to take about six months.

• Nila Duffett was approved as the SGCS representative for the Churubusco Library Board for a term of four years, expiring May 31, 2022.

• In the first board meeting after the referendum, Hile spoke to the community, thankful for the support.

“I really enjoyed getting to know new people, hear their stories and learn about the history of the community before I came here,” he said. “I hope there will be more participation at board meetings. At the end of the day, it’s not my school, it’s not the board’s school. It’s the community’s school.”

• The board is looking to sell its rental properties. It has to receive two appraisals, then take the average of the appraisals for the selling price. The homes were purchased 10 years ago.

“It’s time to let those go to someone else,” Hile said. “We are not landlords.”

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