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Coal City School Board approves increase of common fees

COAL CITY – Parents in Coal City Community Unit 1 School District will pay slightly more for some district services and see a reduction in hazardous bus routes beginning next school year.

During Wednesday’s school board meeting, the board voted to approve increases for common fees after considering results of the annual fee audit.

“If you look at our fees compared to other districts, by and large our fees are much lower,” Superintendent Kent Bugg said Thursday. “But every once and a while, we have to look at those fees and make small increases.”

Next school year, lunch prices will go up 15 cents for every grade level for the second consecutive year. The price increase is part of a four-year plan raising lunch prices to $2.99, equal to the federal reimbursement amount District 1 receives through the Federal School Lunch Program.

For the first time, the district will add a technology fee to help maintain the district’s 950 Chromebooks, 400 iPads, 200 MacBooks, 100 iMacs and 50 PCs .

“We’ve really been focusing on creating 21st century classrooms,” Bugg said. “But one of the important things about technology is if you want your kids and teachers to use it, it has to work.”

The tech fee will help ease the district’s financial burden of maintaining those devices, which has put a strain on the technology budget over the last few years.

“It helps us offset the costs of that system because we have more technology today than we’ve ever had before,” Jason Smith, director of technology and business services for District 1, said Thursday.

Bugg said Coal City will be in line with several other districts already charging technology fees.

Parents will find the registration fee unchanged next school year, remaining the lowest registration fee in Grundy County. Camp fees, adult class fees and summer school fees also will stay the same.

Bugg said the district is currently looking into a potential fee change for driver education and will finalize that amount in March.

Bus route changes

Stemming from the district’s plan to trim $1 million from the budget during the next four years, District 1 will begin phasing out two and a half hazardous bus routes beginning next academic year. The decision is estimated to save the district $117,250 annually.

Hazardous routes are offered to students who live within 1.5 miles of their school building – therefore not required to receive regular district bus service – but who do not have a safe path to walk to school.

Starting in 2014-15, the district will reduce one hazardous bus route to both the elementary and intermediate schools and one half of a route to the middle school.

In 2015-16, the district also will eliminate one route to the early childhood center. Bugg said they are waiting so that the kindergarten students who received transportation this year will still receive transportation in 2014-15.

“We’re confident that the areas we’re looking at still have safe routes for kids to bike or walk to school and they fall within the guidelines of the mile and a half distance,” Bugg said.

District 1 had not conducted a detailed review of its current hazardous routes since the construction of the early childhood center in 2008, but felt it necessary with the pending budget decreases.

Every year, District 1 spends $2.4 million in student transportation costs, with each regular bus route costing $33,000.

“We looked at all facets of the organization to see if there were ways to reduce our budget without significantly impacting students,” Smith said.

In 2013, the district experienced about a 5 percent decline in its tax base. The Grundy County assessor projects the district will continue to see the tax base decline for at least the next two or three years before it levels off, Bugg said.

District 1 also has experienced a decrease in state funding and is still negotiating with Exelon to determine how much the district can levy from Dresden Station, the largest tax contributor in the district.

“We could very likely be in the deficit position in years to come,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to minimize that impact as much as possible.

Fee updates for Coal City School District beginning 2014-15 school year
• Registration Fee – No change
• Technology Fee – $5 for grades K-5 and $10 for 6-12
• Lunch Fee – $0.15 increase for all students and employees
• Athletic Admission Fee – $3 increase for season passes; 6th grade events will now have admission fees
• Busing Fee – $600 for students ineligible for district transportation

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