MORTON — Morton School Board President Tom Neeley said Tuesday he believes the board needs to do a better job of gathering feedback from the community about the school district.
Board members agreed. Kevin Austin suggested talking to small groups like school PTOs.
"We're not doing much of anything right now. We have to start somewhere," he said.
Fellow School Board Member Shad Beaty said the communication needs to be for a specific reason so useful information can be gathered.
"We shouldn't do something simply because it looks nice," he said.
In the background of the board's discussion Tuesday was the 1 percent Tazewell County school facilities sales tax that's on the April 2 ballot. After losing decisively in 2013 and 2016, the sales tax was narrowly defeated in November, so Tazewell County school boards have put the question back before voters.
"One thing we need to talk about with the public is why the sales tax is back on the ballot so quickly," Neeley said.
The Morton School Board has promised to freeze the district's property tax levy for a year and use sales tax revenue to pay off bonds for a construction project for four years if the sales tax passes.
"There won't be a change in our education fund, which is for educational programs, if we freeze the property tax levy," said board member Jeff Schmidgall. "That was a misconception among some people during the last election that we need to talk about."
The Morton School District would receive an estimated $2.1 million annually in sales tax revenue, which by law can be used only for facilities work and to pay off bonds for facilities work, a major topic of discussion.
The district has a 15-year plan of maximizing the use of current facilities while keeping up with maintenance and repair, plus evaluating the need for a new school based on enrollment, educational trends and community input.
Last year, the board approved renovations to Morton Junior High School that improve security, traffic flow and parking.
These improvements, with an estimated cost of $2.1 million, have a projected August 2020 completion date. A project to create a new pick-up and drop-off area for students and additional parking would be done with the village of Morton.
The next phase includes a new gymnasium at the junior high. Construction would be done if funding becomes available.
Major work also is needed at Morton High School if funding becomes available.
Projects include remodeling the cafeteria, library and classrooms, an expansion of the so-called "canopy entrance" near the Potterdome gymnasium that also would encompass locker room renovations and new gym bleachers, and expanding the labor trade teaching space.
The auditorium in the district's Education and Administration Center also is part of the 15-year plan.
To make the auditorium fully functional, handicap accessibility must be improved and more seating is needed to accommodate student performances, according to Superintendent Jeff Hill.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.