Election 2013: Westville school candidates

Election 2013: Westville school candidates

WESTVILLE — Five candidates and a write-in candidate will seek three four-year seats on the Westville School Board to help guide the school district through some challenging financial times.

The seats held by Michael Acord, David Parker and Shawn Bennett will be up for election on April 9, and all three incumbents are seeking re-election. Challengers LeAnn Gallion and Timothy Jenkins are seeking election, as is write-in candidate D. L. Rolinitis.

School officials approved an $11.3 million budget that includes about $400,000 in deficit spending.

School Superintendent Jim Owens estimates that the district will increase its spending by about 1 percent over the past year — an increase of about $102,000 — and will receive about $694,000 less in state aid than it did during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Owens has said that no major expenses are expected in the upcoming year. He said the district is in the second year of a three-year contract with the teachers' union, and is in a multi-year agreement with First Student for student transportation needs. Also, all three district schools have received renovation projects in the past two years.

School board members adopted a $2.34 million tax levy for the upcoming school year on Dec. 19, which is expected to generate an additional $110,400 for the district.

Any additional revenue generated by the new levy will be used to try to offset the reductions in revenues the district expects to receive from the state, Owens said.

Here is a look at the candidates:

Michael Acord

Age:37

Occupation: maintenance supervisor for Hispanic Housing, Chicago

Are you an incumbent: Yes, appointed to the school board in Oct. 2012

Other political experience: none

What experience makes you a good candidate:

1. Lifetime resident of Westville

2. Been involved in the district volunteering

3. School board member now

4. WHS graduate

5. Been a great supporter of the school district

6. Being a supervisor, I have had to make tough decisions

What are the most important issues facing the district:

1. State funding

2. Keeping up with technology

LeAnn Gallion

Age: 48

Occupation: Supervisor- Cannon Cochran Management Services Inc.

Are you an incumbent : No

Other political experience: None

What experience makes you a good candidate: I manage people in the business environment and I know how to make personnel decisions and evaluate individuals. I also have the experience of my children being part of the district and I know the wants and needs of the students as well as the wants and needs of a parent.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: Money is a big issue for schools, so I feel that the board has to be fiscally responsible. Another issue that is important to the district is the need to maintain a strong curriculum and to maintain a high level of teaching professionals

Tim Jenkins Sr.

Age: 52

Occupation: Entertainment

Are you an incumbent : No

Other political experience: Belgium village trustee from 1999-2001, Belgium village mayor from 2001-2005

What experience makes you a good candidate: As a mayor, I've made sure we passed balanced budgets every year I was in office. I presided over and conducted meetings according to statutes and rules.

I negotiated fair salaries and working conditions with village employees. I represented the Village of Belgium on the Vermilion County Mayors' Roundtable Committee of Vermilion Advantage.

I represented the Village of Belgium on the Danville Area Transportation Study Committee.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: The lack of revenue from the state.

Passing and maintaining balanced budgets without property tax increases. The safety of students and faculty. Retaining and recruiting the best qualified teachers. And, based on statistics from the Illinois state report card 2012, our students need improvement in reading, math and science.

Shawn Bennett

Age: 58

Occupation: Postmaster

Are you an incumbent: Yes; school board member for 24 years

Other political experience: None

What experience makes you a good candidate: During my tenure as a school board member, Westville has developed into the premier county district. We were the first to institute an elementary school computer lab. The character and discipline of our students is known throughout the county. There are substitute teachers in the county that will only substitute in Westville. I have worked with challenging budgets, local negotiations, citizen advisory groups, legislators, and a variety of administrators. My experience brings a balance of historical prospective, tradition, and forward innovative thinking to the district.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: Westville is not a district with an excess of local taxable wealth. Westville is heavily dependent on state aid to finance its educational endeavors. The declining state of Illinois finances threatens to undermine the educational funding process in many rural Illinois districts. My experience will aid the district as we seek to find alternative funding sources while continuing to keep the tax rates at responsible levels.

David Parker

Age : 58

Occupation: facility manager at University of Illinois

Are you an incumbent: Yes ; school board member for six years

Other political experience: None

What experience makes you a good candidate: I feel the experience I have learned serving on Westville school board these last six years has given me the insight to understand the huge challenges we face because of the state's inability to control costs. Westville schools have many challenges ahead of us and we can't afford to wait while new board members try to get up to speed learning how everything operates. The state is trying to push all costs down to the school level, without giving us the money or the tools to operate how we see fit.

What are the most important issues facing the school district: The biggest issue would be to keep a quality education program going in the right direction, without allowing the state to burden our local property taxpayers with mandates we can't pay for unless we raise taxes.

D.L. Rolinitis

Write-in candidate

No information provided

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