Columbia School Board OKs budget

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The Columbia School Board approved the school district’s 2019-20 budget at Thursday’s board meeting. 

The budget shows the district having $22,945,154 in revenue and $23,182,494 in expenditures. 

Although the budget is $237,340 in the red overall, Columbia Superintendent of Schools Gina Segobiano said she feels good about this year’s budget, in part because of some stability. 

“I am finally relieved for solid and stable funding from the state of Illinois,” she said. “The new evidence-based funding formula guarantees full payment each year with additional funds allocated each year. In the past, the state always pro-rated funding levels, so a school district could never count on state revenue as a solid funding source.”

The district’s budget shows a surplus in every fund except the operations and maintenance and fire prevention and safety funds. 

Segobiano said the deficit in the former account is because the district needs to make some one-time purchases like a lawn mower and lift truck. 

In the latter fund, that money is going toward projects the district is doing like the bleachers at the multi-purpose field at Columbia High School. It had money already set aside for that work.  

The board also discussed plans for two positions going forward, including superintendent. 

The board examined three options for what to do since Segobiano announced she is leaving at the end of November to take a job at Southwestern Illinois College. 

The first option was to accelerate its hiring process for a new superintendent, which no one on the board supported. 

“Personally, I think that’s a bad choice,” school board president Scott Middelkamp said. “It would severely limit our pool.” 

Another option was to have Courtney Castelli, who took over as assistant superintendent this year, serve in the interim until a permanent replacement is hired next year. 

That idea also gained no support from the board. 

“With all that she has on her plate, I don’t want her to stop and then restart what she’s already started this year,” Middelkamp said. “I don’t think it would be fair to Courtney to yank her to fill in as superintendent while we get this then have her try to ramp back up again.”

The board decided to go with its third option, which is to hire an interim superintendent. 

The Illinois Association of School Boards, which is assisting the board with its search for a permanent superintendent, will be assisting in the process. 

The interim, who will most likely be a retired superintendent, can work a maximum of 120 days. 

Those days are defined as six hours and only include work days. 

So, the board is planning to have this person work two to four six-hour days a week in Segobiano’s absence. 

Interim superintendents usually cost $500 to $700 per day, Middelkamp said, but they receive no benefits. 

Middelkamp said the district has no major projects upcoming aside form negotiations with its unions,  so the interim person would mainly handle day-to-day operations, finances and reporting and emergencies as they arise. 

Middelkamp said the IASB told him the district would have a fairly small pool of people in southern Illinois to serve in the position until June. 

That will help with the timeline Middelkamp  proposed, which has district administrators interviewing candidates by mid-October and the board interviewing them and selecting one Oct. 24. 

The person hired would then work with Segobiano on select days in November to learn more about the job.  

That could all be sped up if the district gets few applicants. 

The other position the board discussed was that of a district architect, which it has been working to hire since the July board meeting. 

The district architect would serve in a capacity similar to a consultant, answering questions and providing guidance on engineering and architectural matters. The architect might also  assist with fire prevention and safety items. 

“This is a new initiative as a result of conversation over the last couple months of ‘who is our architect,’” Segobiano said in July. “We have used different professional services in the past four years.”

Board members Tammy Hines and Greg Meyer were two of the main drivers of that conversation. 

The district started the process by requesting qualifications from firms that wanted to fill that role. 

It received five responses, and it plans to interview four of those companies at a special board meeting Sept. 30. One of those four firms is Quadrant Designs in Waterloo, while the others are outside the county. 

In a final personnel matter from the meeting, Segobiano announced Zack Hopkins would be returning as Columbia’s school resource officer. 

Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul said Hopkins is back in that role because his replacement, Anthony Delaney, left the police department for another job and Hopkins already had the necessary training. 

“We adore him,” Segobiano said of Hopkins. “He knows the community.”

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