MT. VERNON – The District 80 Board of Education is investigating selling the now empty Benjamin Franklin Early Childhood Center.
Superintendent Mike Green stressed that selling the building is not definite at this point, but merely being considered as an option.
The issue was on the agenda for Wednesday night's Board of Education meeting, but the discussion was postponed until that evening's closed session. No firm decisions on a sale were expected to come from the session.
“It's very much preliminary,” Green said prior to the closed session. “Any time you sell a school building, there's a very specific legal way to do it, so we're just at the very beginning of the process.”
The district recently moved its pre-school program at the Benjamin Franklin site to the Dr. Andy Hall Early Childhood Center.
And Green said continuing to maintain the empty Franklin building could get costly for the district. Other alternatives for using Franklin to generate revenue have been considered, but none have yet come to fruition.
“If we winterize the building, it's going to cost money, and any time you have an empty building you're going to have to insure it,” Green said. “So you have an empty building that's going to be eating up money.”
Also on Wednesday, the board approved a tentative 2013-2014 budget and set a public hearing for the spending plan for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at the district office at 2710 North St. The full board will also meet that evening.
A special District 80 Finance Committee meeting was held last week to examine the budget. However, Wednesday's full board meeting was the first chance many board members had to view the document, Green said.
“The board gets the first look at it tonight,” Green said.
At this point, the district anticipates running a deficit of around $350,000 for the budget. Much of this is attributed to state funding cuts and a number of one-time building expenses.
Merle Hollmann, chairman of the District 80 Finance Committee, said the board needs to start looking ahead in its budget planning at “the big picture.”
“I think we're fine for another year,” Hollmann said of the district's finances. “It's just we can't continue to have this (deficit spending).”
Next year, the district should be in better financial shape without the one-time building expenses. There will also be some retirements that should positively impact the budget.
Other board actions Wednesday included:
n Discussion of the ongoing Casey Middle School expansion.
n Approval of a $4,900 expenditure to implement a more intensive writing curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade students. This is in response to the state's plans to stress writing more in its testing.
n Approval of the annual authorization to participate in the AmeriCorps program.