SIDELL — Jamaica school board members unveiled a preliminary property tax levy for the upcoming year on Nov. 21 that may generate an additional $125,000 in revenue for the district.
School Superintendent Phil Harrison said that he based his estimates on the assumption that the equalized assessed valuation of all property in the Jamaica school district would increase from its current level of $44.83 million to about $48.05 million next near.
His estimates may change in the coming weeks as new information about the value of property in the area becomes known.
Currently, the district generates about $2.41 million directly from local property taxes with a tax rate of about 5.37 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
That means the owner of a $60,000 home in the district with no exemptions pays about $1,074 in property taxes directly to the district.
The preliminary levy approved on Nov. 21 would generate about $2.53 million for the district, using a tax rate of about $5.27 cents per $100 — an decrease of about $20 for the owner of a $60,000 home with no exemptions — if the assessed value of the property remained the same.
The board is expected to vote on the tax levy at the Dec. 19 meeting.
In other business, school officials gave a brief update on the proposal to merge the Jamaica and Catlin school districts.
School officials have said recently that creating a cooperative Catlin-Jamaica high school or consolidating the two districts would result in reduced personnel expenses, reduced administrative expenses, better purchasing power, and more academic and extracurricular offerings. Jamaica and Catlin have had an athletic cooperative together — the Salt Fork Storm — for the past 18 years.
To formally study a possible merger, the two boards have appointed members to a Committee of Ten that will gather information and a make recommendations to the two school boards.
Catlin school board members appointed school board President Jeff Fauver and Catlin Faculty Organization Co-President and Catlin Grade School teacher Joe Hageman to the committee, as well as three members of the community — Karen Huchel, Fred Rinehart and Bob Wright.
The Jamaica school board members appointed board members Jeff Carder and Ron Taylor, district employees Dawn Eakle and Jeff Ford, and community member Brian Lane to the committee.
Jamaica school board President Steve Bainbridge said that 20 people from the Jamaica district applied to serve on the committee, and he thanked the appointees for their interest and for the work they would perform in the coming weeks. He said that the committee would hold its first meeting on Dec. 14 in Jamaica, that future meetings would likely take place primarily on Saturdays and that Catlin and Jamaica would alternate hosting the meetings.
Some of the committee's groundwork is already done, Bainbridge said.
The Catlin and Jamaica school districts have been involved in a sports cooperative for nearly two decades — the Salt Folk Storm — so a merged district would have the option of continuing to use that mascot and those colors for a combined high school.
Also, school officials have talked about elementary students from the Jamaica area continuing to attend school in Jamaica and elementary students from the Catlin area continuing to attend Catlin Grade School, but having the junior high students from both districts attend school in one building — either the Jamaica school or Catlin High School — and the high school students from both districts attending school together in the other building.
"I would ask for the committee members to keep the big picture in mind," Bainbridge said.
"It is natural to focus on the impact on your own kids, but committee members need to think about how these changes will affect all the kids for the next decade or more."
Harrison said that it was possible that a school merger could be put before local voters as early as the November 2014 election, although any merger proposal would first have to be go before both school boards, the regional superintendent of Vermilion County schools and the state superintendent before it appeared on a ballot.
"Voters will have the final say at the ballot box," Harrison said.
The board will also seek a one-year agreement to provide school buses for the district.
The district's current four-year agreement with Superior Coach Sales of Perrysville, Ind., that provide the district with seven school buses will expire at the end of the 2013-14 school year.