The West Prairie School District’s latest Impact 103 community engagement forum focused on the district's finances and facilities. Earlier sessions focused on the community's concerns about the school district and the condition of the district's buildings.
Kevin Heid of Stifel Financial in Bloomington, Illinois, spoke during the latest forum. Heid serves as a financial consultant for the district and said he has a favorable impression of West Prairie’s finances.
“I think it’s very positive since they don’t have a lot of debt outstanding. They have a lot of capacity. Many districts we work with have more debt already in place and have fewer options available to them,” Heid said.
The district said it has enough cash in reserves to make it through most of a school year without any state funding. Nonetheless, Superintendent Carol Kilver said General State Aid is a constant concern.
“The district and previous leaders and previous boards have done an excellent job of building our reserves. If no new money came and we relied only on local taxes, we would not be able to stay open for the full year and we would have wiped out all those reserves. All that hard work over the last 15 – 16 years would be gone,” she said.
Those who attended the forum broke into smaller groups to discuss their financial concerns about the district. Many of the groups cited transportation-related issues. The district said it spends around $30,000 per month on transportation and has yet to receive any transportation funding from the state for the current school year.
The Impact 103 discussion groups also addressed things that surprised them about the district. Items mentioned included the amount of reserve funds, the potential cost of building upgrades, and the monthly cost of transportation.
Items they considered important and worth keeping included the 90-minute reading and math blocks, daily physical education, foreign language classes, the pre-kindergarten program, and counseling services.
The next Impact 103 community engagement session is scheduled for Tuesday, February 20, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center in Macomb.
The information gathered during the Impact 103 sessions will be used by the administration and the Board of Education to create a long-range plan for the district.