Bement decision not to merge driven by finances
Bement will have a high school for at least two more years.
After hearing from residents at a special meeting, school board members voted unanimously to keep the status quo and continue to house all of its grades in town.
A consultant hired by the Bement and Cerro Gordo school districts recommended in January that Bement deactivate its high school of 127 students and fund their tuition in one or more neighboring districts. Cerro Gordo was seen as a logical choice since it already has a successful sports cooperative arrangement with Bement.
But after an extensive look, Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood said it would cost $809,000 in tuition to send high schoolers to Cerro Gordo, a cost the district could not afford.
"Basically, we could not afford to do the tuition, so it was a financially driven decision," Greenwood said. "Cerro Gordo was gracious enough to come down on the tuition (to $6,375 per student), but not able to come down enough where we could afford it."
Transportation costs would also increase by an estimated $55,000 annually if Bement decided to send high school students to Cerro Gordo.
Bement Village President Pat Tieman said he was "very pleased with the decision. I thanked them (school board members) for all the work they put into this, because they were faced with a no-win situation."
What the decision does not do is solve ongoing financial concerns for the district, which had about $900,000 in overall reserves as of April's school board meeting. The board will likely approve $300,000 in working cash bonds to help get it through the next two years, Greenwood said.
"Down the road every school district will be looking at options," she added, noting the declining state reimbursements for Illinois schools.